A make-ahead, ready when you are salad, Black Bean Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad with Smoky Pepitas and Roasted Jalapeño Lime Dressing. Vegan + Gluten Free
Spring is in the air as my still-hibernating soul gives way to earlier morning light. Although chilly mornings remain, these longer days signal change for warmer days ahead and the abundance spring provides.
Rob and I built nest boxes this weekend for our resident and migrating feathered friends, laying out the Welcome mat to replace, at least in some small way, part of the habitat humanity has taken from them. Our old boxes were in need of updating as the entrance holes had been excavated by a crafty former resident and the elements had taken their toll.
We built these boxes suitable for chickadees, wrens and/or tree swallows with an entrance hole size of an exacting 1 1/8″ in diameter: their preference. Cornell Lab showed us how. This specific hole size keeps out invasive/introduced species such as house sparrows and starlings who compete for nest sites, often violently, leaving the native songbird terribly injured, or worse, dead.
Birds need all the mitigating support we can offer mostly due to habitat loss, those pesky invasive species we introduced long ago and a myriad of other human caused factors.
I’ve plugged the entrance for now with a rock due to house sparrows already attempting to create a nest. I want to discourage them as long as possible. They should be well on their way at building at a different location when the songbirds are ready to start building, hopefully choosing our carefully built nest boxes to raise their broods. Of course with my watchful eyes on the lookout for those house sparrows.
We’ll be offering our observations to Nest Watch so they can continue to study data gathered by citizen scientists in an effort to monitor songbird populations. It’s fun monitoring and watching too, especially if the nest is successful!
Although I’ve an eye to spring, I’m still in the mood for cozy comfort food. If you’re in the South, though, I know you’re over it due to the already 90F temperatures. This salad is a good seasonal transition. Still offering comfort, while satisfying the need for chilled nourishment.
Because I know how much y’all love quinoa salads, I got busy developing a new one. This Quinoa Mango Black Bean Salad with Smoky Pepitas and Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette is popular one on the blog, and it’s been too long since I shared a new quinoa salad.
A few weeks ago I made this black bean sweet potato salad on Instagram Stories. Quite a few of you said YES please, so I got to work writing the recipe and photographing it.
While the sweet potatoes, jalapeño and pepitas are roasting, cook the quinoa, chop the spinach and onions. Rinse the black beans and gather the ingredients for the dressing. While the potatoes, pepetias and quinoa are cooling, add the roasted jalapeño to a food processor along with the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cilantro and seasoning. Assemble the salad, pour on the dressing and stir in the avocado just before serving.
This recipe makes a big salad. It’s a make-ahead salad, holding well for several days in the refrigerator, which means it’s ready when I need it #getinmybelly. Suitable for lunch, picnics, potlucks or a light yet filling dinner, I find hearty salads like this help me stay full through the day and avoid afternoon snack attacks!
If you’re sensitive to spicy things, the jalapeño is not very noticeable as long as you scrape out the seeds and ribs after roasting. It adds a mild mouth burn due to the balance of cooling ingredients such as lime and avocado.
So be brave, be bold! Add that jalapeño!
What spring projects are on your list?
Black Bean Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad with Smoky Pepitas and Roasted Jalapeño Lime Dressing
Texture, flavor and spice come together in this hearty, slightly spicy quinoa salad. Make-ahead for lunch on the ready or for a light yet hearty dinner. Versatile and packed with goodness. Vegan + Gluten Free
For The Salad:
- 4 C (510g) Sweet Potatoes peeled and diced in 1/2" (1.3cm) cubes
- 1 1/2 Tbs + 1/2 tsp Coconut Oil divided; virgin, cold pressed, melted
- 1/2 tsp Chili Powder
- 3/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp Smoky Paprika divided
- 1/4 tsp Cumin ground
- 2 tsp + 1/8 tsp Fine Sea Salt divided
- 1/2 C (70g) Pepitas
- 1 C (195g) Quinoa rinsed and drained
- 1 3/4 C (420g) Water
- 15 oz (425g) Cooked Black Beans or 1 can, rinsed and drained
- 4 C (140g) Baby Spinach chopped and packed
- 1/2 C (45g) Green Onions sliced thin
- 2 Avocados diced
- Fist-full of Cilantro leaves chopped fine
For The Salad:
Preheat oven to 425F (218C). Line a sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper. Place the jalapeño (for the dressing) on the sheet pan. Toss the cubed potatoes with 1 1/2 Tbs oil. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp cumin, and 3/4 tsp salt over the top of the potatoes and stir well. Spread on prepared sheet pan with the jalapeño, in an even layer and bake for about 20-24 minutes or until fork tender. Turn the jalapeño once while roasting. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool. Set the jalapeño aside to cool.
Toss pepitas with 1/2 tsp coconut oil, 1/8 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp paprika. Toast the pepitas in the same oven as the potatoes and jalapeño for about 6-7 minutes. They will be slightly golden and fragrant when ready. Set aside to cool.
While the potatoes, jalapeño and pepitas are roasting, cook the quinoa. In a small sauce pot, bring quinoa, water and salt to a boil, turn to low and simmer uncovered for 13-14 minutes. Remove from heat, stir, cover and let set for 5 minutes. The quinoa is ready when tender and with it's 'tails' showing. Drain off any remaining water. Place in refrigerator to cool while the rest of the salad is being prepared.
For The Dressing:
Slice the roasted jalapeño (see step 1 in "for the salad") in 1/2, lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. In the bowl of a food processor, add the jalapeño, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt and cilantro. With the processor on, pour in the olive oil. Process until smooth.
After the potatoes and quinoa have cooled, add them to a large mixing bowl along with the black beans, spinach, green onions, and pepitas. Drizzle 3/4 of the dressing over the salad and mix well. Taste to see if more dressing is desired and adjust as needed. Add a few twists of fresh ground pepper and adjust salt as needed. If time is available, dress the salad about an hour before service. The flavors will come together as it sets in the fridge.
Just before serving, stir in diced avocado and chopped cilantro. Serve with lime wedges. Store in the refrigerator, in a lidded container for up to three days.