Simple Supper: Corn, Squash, and Black Beans with Quinoa

I remember the first time I made quinoa. I got the recipe from a Deborah Madison cookbook, and I know that it involved carrot juice and a lot of onions. I made it for Eric the first time he came over for dinner, just weeks after we started dating. He brought me these beautiful flowers, just because, and I am shocked that I didn’t burn dinner to a crisp because what I most remember about that night is that we could not. stop. smiling at each other. It was a beautiful summer night, and we lingered at the table by the open windows long after dinner, talking about our work and our passions and our past adventures and about what makes us tick. I remember absolutely swooning (internally, of course) over how incredibly easy it was to talk to him, about anything and everything and nothing. I still feel that way today, unbelievably lucky to have found my best and truest friend.

Fast forward several years, and now we are married (yay!), and quinoa is my most essential staple. I love it beyond words–it is crunchy and nutty and full of protein, which always leaves me, pseudo-vegetarian, feeling very virtuous. Quinoa with veggies and cheese is my go-to dinner, and I would say that I make it in some variation at least once every two weeks, with whatever we happen to have on hand and whatever’s ripe in our little kitchen garden. I really prefer red quinoa, but haven’t found a good source for it here yet (Berkeley Bowl, please open a branch down here!! I am not even joking when I say that I’m considering buying a 10-pound bag of red quinoa when I go up to file my dissertation and bringing it home with me in my carry-on!) The golden kind is probably just as good for you, but the red is so pretty, and I’m a sucker for bright colors everywhere, including on my plate!

This time I went with the classic “holy trinity” of corn, beans, and squash. They are sometimes referred to as “the three sisters” in South American cultures because they grow so well together. I like the idea of that. 🙂 This is a meal that comes together very quickly and will still be delicious even through a thousand different permutations. Use what you have, use what sounds good, and you’ll have a great dinner on the table in no time!

Corn, Squash, and Black Beans with Quinoa

1 c quinoa
1/2 red onion, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 patty pan squash, cubed (or you could use any other kind of summer squash)
Kernels from 3 ears of corn
1 c dried black beans (I always cook dried beans in my pressure cooker; 1 c black beans will cook in 5-6 c of water in about 20 minutes. You could also use canned beans, probably about a can and a half.)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Juice of 1 lime
Cotija (or Feta) cheese and chopped chives for topping

-Heat oil in a large pan and add onion. Let cook for a few minutes, then add cumin, coriander, and cayenne pepper. After 1 minute, add corn, squash, and pre-cooked beans. Squeeze the lime juice in and leave the rinds in the pan so the flavor keeps infusing the vegetables.  Saute until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
-In the meantime, rinse quinoa several times in cold water. (Quinoa has a soap-tasting outer coating that has to be washed off. It’s good for protecting the plant from animals that might eat it, but not good for your taste buds!)  Boil 2 c water in a small saucepan.  When the water is boiling, add quinoa and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-When the quinoa is cooked, add it to the pan with the vegetables and stir well.
-Remove the lime rinds, dish it up, and top it with cheese and chives. That’s it! I don’t usually use salt when working with such salty cheeses, but, of course, feel free to add salt and pepper as desired!

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