Summer brings so many delights – warm weather, ice cream and most of all an explosion of fruits and vegetables. A hearty, delicious summer treat, this mango, quinoa, avocado salad pairs well with Blackened Cod, my Baby Back Ribs, Whole Herb Roasted Chicken and most grilled meats. There are many variations of this salad some including black beans and corn. Adding black beans makes this a complete vegetarian meal. I omit the beans and treat it as a tantalizingly, flavorful side dish.
Items to Gather
If you are gardening this summer, this is a wonderful way to enjoy those delicious tomatoes, peppers and herbs. My bell pepper is not quite mature as yet but I have a profusion of tomatoes and lots of cilantro which I was happy to use in this salad
- Quinoa (Red or tricolor preferred)
- Mango (peeled, diced)
- Avocado (peeled, cored, diced)
- Bell pepper (cored and chopped)
- 1 medium tomato (diced)
- Cilantro (chopped)
- Olive Oil
- Cumin (ground)
- Ginger (ground or fresh)
Depending on where you live, you may have one type of mango or a variety whose availability is seasonal. This recipe calls for the “generic” type of mango found in US supermarkets. In New York City it is called a “Mexican” mango. It is closest to the “Buxton Spice” mango in Guyana. When you purchase the mango it should yield slightly to pressure from your fingers. It should not be hard or mushy.
Peel one large mango and slice off the two “cheeks” as close to the seed as possible. Slice the mango cheeks vertically then horizontally to make cubes about 1/2 inch all round. Slice off the remaining flesh from the seed and cube it as well. Set aside. Eat whatever flesh is left on the seed. Yum!
Quinoa (Keen wah)
Quinoa is one of my favorite discoveries over the last 4-5 years. I first resisted quinoa because of the annoying way food elites in America laid claim to it in highly overpriced dishes – although it had been widely cultivated in South America. Quinoa is delicious and nutrient dense. It comes in 3-4 varieties (white, red, black and tricolor) and is extremely versatile as a side dish served hot, cold, or at room temperature. I like red quinoa best and recommend it for this salad.
I did not grow up eating quinoa, but in 2017 the Ministry of Agriculture in Guyana considered introducing quinoa as a cash crop because of its hardiness and drought resistant qualities. By 2018 Guyana was exploring cultivation of 8 varieties of quinoa. For my Guyanese readers, I suggest you embrace quinoa as a fancy kind of rice. Its versatility, texture and perfect pairing with curry dishes is sure to surprise and delight your family and guests.
To learn more about quinoa including the debate on whether or not it is a grain, click here.
Preparing the Quinoa
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 2 cups water and another cup reserved
- Rinse the quinoa thoroughly to remove dust and debris.
- Heat a non stick pan over medium heat.
- Add the quinoa and stir to spread evenly in the pan
- Keep stirring occasionally and pay attention to when the quinoa is dried out and begins to pop in the pan. This technique – dry roasting – brings out a lovely, nutty flavor in the quinoa
- Add one cup of water and cover. Cook at a gentle boil until the water is absorbed.
- Lightly flavor with freshly ground black pepper and a dash of salt or seasoning salt.
- Keep adding water bit by bit until the quinoa seeds open up like little flowers and the liquid is absorbed
- Taste for doneness and flavor. There should be a subtle crunch.
- Set aside.
The Salad Dressing
Simplicity and taste are the guiding principles here. As you prepare your salad dressing, taste it to be sure it is to your liking. It should be sweet, tangy and with the distinct (but not overpowering) flavors of cumin and ginger. Prepare while the quinoa is cooking. Adjust seasonings to your liking.
Taste the mango before you finalize your salad dressing. If your mango is VERY sweet, up the tangy notes of your salad dressing. If the mango has a nice tartness to it, up the sweet notes of your salad dressing.
- 4 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3 tbsp olive oil (or avocado oil or grapeseed oil)
- 3 tsp honey
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger or 2 -3 tsps fresh ginger (Finely grate 3 inches of fresh ginger and squeeze out juice. Alternatively you may use a zester and add the ginger pulp to your salad dressing)
- Add the ingredients in a small bowl whisking to mix well as you go along.
- Set aside
- Add the quinoa, mango, bell pepper, and avocado to a salad bowl
- Whisk the dressing again to make sure it is well blended and add slowly, gently tossing the salad as you go.
- When the vegetables are lightly coated, sprinkle on the cilantro and toss gently once more.
- Serve with your favorite meat
- Eat all of the avocado!
- Save and refrigerate any extra salad dressing.
- Peel and dice a fresh avocado the next day
- Add to leftover salad and serve again!