Quinoa with Black Beans, Avocado, Tomatoes, Scallions & Mini Mozzarella with a Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

What do you make for a cardiothoracic surgeon and a journalist after watching open heart surgery on Valentine’s Day? This is what I came up with, and for someone who’s big on eating healthy (the surgeon) and someone who’d never tried quinoa before (the journalist), I think it was a pretty good pick. Quinoa is definitely my favorite grain – it’s an ancient source of protein and also high in iron, fiber & magnesium – and also, with its little pop of texture, it’s fun to eat. It goes well with just about everything, and has completely replaced rice in cooking for me at this point. Plus, heart-healthy avocados, tomatoes and scallions, fiber-rich organic black beans and a little mozz…yummo. This dish has a southwestern vibe but in a really clean, bright way. I love this.

 – 1 C. dry quinoa
– 2 C. chicken broth or water
– 1 can organic black beans, rinsed and drained
– ½ C. mini mozzarella balls (these just look cuter in the salad, otherwise dice up a larger mozzarella ball)
– 1 avocado, diced
– 1 C. cherry tomatoes, halved
– 3 scallions, sliced
– 2 limes, juiced
– Zest of 1 lime
– 4 tbsp. EVOO
– ½ tsp. cumin
– Handful of cilantro, chopped
– Kosher salt & pepper, to taste
1.       Cook quinoa. You have to really rinse it well, otherwise the “dust” that’s on it makes it bitter. I have a really fine mesh strainer that I just dump the uncooked quinoa in, then run water over it, swishing it around in the strainer, until the water runs clear.

2.       Once the quinoa is rinsed and the chicken broth (or water) is boiling, add quinoa to the water, then turn heat down to low. Cover the pot and let the water incorporate into the quinoa, approx. 15 mins. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, still covered. Fluff with a fork.

3.       Meanwhile, dice the avocados and scallions, cut the tomatoes, and dry the mozzarella a little bit.

4.       Drain and rinse the black beans well.
5.       Make the dressing – in a mason jar, combine the lime juice, lime zest, cumin, salt & pepper. Mix to blend everything together in the acid of the lime juice before adding the EVOO. Add the EVOO and shake it all up.

6.       In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, black beans, tomatoes, mozz, scallions and avocado. Mix gently to blend.
7.       Add the dressing, and the cilantro, mix gently again. Serve, or cover and refrigerate to let flavors absorb into the quinoa.

8.       Make a mental note to take better care of your heart after watching someone have seven blockages cleared that morning (okay, that was just what I did).  For more information on heart health, visit www.heart.org