Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Smoky Lime Dressing

It will comes as news to most people that the grain called quinoa is 100% protein. At least, that’s what Weight Watchers claims. Now that I’ve finally got the hang of making dry, fluffy quinoa, thanks to a friend who makes it all the time, I’m making it more often than before. The trick, I learned, is NOT to rinse it (contra WW) and to use an amount of water just under double the amount of quinoa. This recipe — the source of which I have lost but it’s from either the New York Times or the Guardian — falls into the category of Grub for its heft and into that of Salad for its forgiving caloric nature. The dressing is what really makes it.

I’ve adapted the recipe for two people on a Weight Watchers diet. It’s still really good.

Serves 4

Calories per serving: 150

Weight Watchers points per serving: 3

1 cup uncooked quinoa

4 green onions, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained [OR, preferably, Rancho Gordo’s black beans, cooked]

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

1 small garlic, finely chopped

Place the quinoa and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.

Shadowcook: I started with 1 3/4 cups water and kept an eye on it.

Lower heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in the green onions, black beans, and cilantro. Puree the remaining ingredients together in a food processor; pour over quinoa and stir to coat with dressing.

Shadowcook: Chop the green onions in chunks. The crunch makes the salad even more satisfying.

Shadowcook: I wouldn’t pour the entire amount of dressing. Try half of it and then taste. Add more if the flavor doesn’t stand out. You don’t want it to get soggy.

Adjust seasoning with salt and additional lime juice if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Shadowcook: I’ve thrown in a chopped hard-boiled egg and some blanched, chopped spinach. What else? Nuts?

Orecchiette with Smoked Bacon, Swiss Chard, Red Onion, and Tomatoes

Adapted from a recipe that I can no longer find (The Guardian, I think).

Why did I plant sixteen tomato plants? My kitchen counters are awash in tomatoes. So, I’m cooking with them as much as possible. By dinner time last night, I had enough Weight Watchers points to use a bit of bacon and an ounce of parmesan with pasta. Swiss chard (from my garden), tomatoes (ditto), and red onion laid over a base of garlic and smoked bacon made for a hunger-diminishing plate of pasta. This is a pasta dish where there is definitely more sauce (mainly vegetables) than there is pasta. But you won’t care.

Calories for 1 serving: 350

Weight Watchers points: 7

Servings: 2

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 thick strips of smoked bacon, cut into small chunks

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

a bunch of Swiss chard leaves, stems removed

1 pound plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

salt and pepper

a scant two cups (112 g) dried orecchiette pasta

Prepare all the ingredients before you proceed. Put pasta bowls in warm oven. Put a pot of water on to boil for both the chard and the pasta. While it is coming to a boil, heat the olive oil and add the bacon pieces. Fry until not quite crisp. Reduce heat and add garlic and red onion. Stir to prevent the garlic from turning deep gold.

When the water is boiling, add the Swiss chard leaves to the water. Depending on how fresh or thick they are, blanch the leaves anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. Drain, let cool, while you continue to stir the garlic to prevent from burning. After a few minutes, add the chopped tomatoes.

Bring the water that you’ve blanched the chard in  to a boil again and add the pasta, which should take 11 minutes or so, which will give you time to continue.

While the tomatoes cook down, use your hands to gather the blanched chard into a ball and squeeze as much water out of it as possible. Roughly chop the chard and add to the bacon, tomatoes, garlic, and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate. The tomatoes should give off liquid. Adjust heat to prevent the liquid from evaporating completely.

Drain the pasta, shake excess water off, and toss into the skillet with the sauce. Stir and taste for seasoning. Transfer to heated pasta bowls. Grate fresh parmesan over the plates and serve.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Sweetcorn Soup with Chipotle and Lime

From The Observer/Guardian, September 10, 2010.

It’s a good day when a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe fits within my Weight Watchers diet. Ottolenghi comes up with ideas that work better on paper than in the pan. This one is a keeper. In this spice fantasy of his, he takes summer (corn) and winter (squash) on a vacation to Southeast Asia. The directions are straightforward. The ingredients are not as outré as you might first think. Yotam offers good substitutions, if you can’t come up with lime leaves, like I can.

A bit of chopping but otherwise easy…

Serves 6

Amount per serving: 1 and a half cups

Weight Watchers points per serving: 5

Calories per serving: 350

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 shallots (100g), peeled and chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

3 celery sticks, cut into 1 cm [1/4 inch] dice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon ground coriander

400g [14 oz] peeled pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 1 cm [1/4 inch] dice

2 bay leaves

3 lime leaves, or a few shaved strips of lime zest

1 liter [4.2 cups] water

1 chipotle chilli, soaks in boiling water for 15 minutes

Shadowcook: Or, if you can’t find dried chipotles, buy a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, rinse off the sauce, and chop. The more seeds you remove, the less heat you’ll taste in the soup.

4 sweetcorn cobs, kernels shaved off

160g [about half a cup] soured cream [that’s sour cream]

3 limes, halved

1 handful torn coriander [cilantro] leaves


Heat the oil in a medium pot, add the shallots, garlic, celery, ground cumin, ground coriander and a little salt, and sauté on low heat for 12 minutes, to soften the vegetables.

Add the pumpkin (or squash), bay leaves, lime leaves (or zest), and water. Squeeze the water of out of the chipotle chilli, remove and discard the seeds, chop roughly and add to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft. Add the corn and cook for five minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to lift out about half of the vegetables, and removed and discard the bay and lime leaves. Blitz the remaining soup until smooth, then return to the vegetables to the pot and bring to a light simmer. Add a little water if you find it too thick. Stir in half the soured cream and taste for seasoning.

Shadowcook: I used my blender. A food processor works just as well.

Divide the soup into six bowls, squeeze the juice of half a lime into each portion, drop about a tablespoonful of soured cream in the middle and scatter over the torn coriander leaves.

Shadowcook: Or, for all you singletons, freeze in 4 or 5 small containers all but a cup and a half. A bowl of this soup in winter will remind you of August.