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A great salad, any way you say it

OK, you're probably feeling a bit leery about today's recipe. I understand. After all, who wants to prepare a dish using ingredients you can't pronounce, let alone eat the stuff?

I must tell you that I've been eating quinoa, one of the oldest foods in the world, for only a few years. When I discovered this superfood, I began incorporating it into the meals I prepare on a more regular basis.

Touted as a nutritional wonder, quinoa (KEEN-wah) is a complete protein, offering an almost perfect balance of essential amino acids needed for tissue growth and repair in humans. It's also high in calcium and iron, and a relatively good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. Quinoa's unusually large, nutrient-rich germ is visible as the white circles that cling to each tiny grain and fall off when it is cooked. Quinoa is available in natural food stores and well-stocked supermarkets.

Busy, health-minded people appreciate grain-like quinoa because it cooks quickly. Before cooking, though, always rinse quinoa. It has a natural protective resin-like coating of saponin which is very bitter tasting. Quinoa is rinsed before it is packaged and sold, but it is best to rinse it again at home before use to remove any of the powdery residue that may remain on the seeds.

Quinoa combined with edamame, black beans and black-eyed peas makes Three Bean Quinoa Salad a high-protein and gluten-free meal. What is edamame, you ask? My son called me from Texas one day a few years ago and said I had to start eating them. First I had to learn how to say the word. Then I had to figure out what they were. Edamame (ed-uh-MAH-may) are fresh soy beans. They are rich sources of isoflavones, compounds that may help reduce cholesterol, fight cancer and strengthen bones. They're also a great source of protein, fiber and B vitamins. All of these health benefits have made edamame quite trendy.

Three-Bean Quinoa Salad is a unique twist on the typical three-bean salad that often shows up at picnics and potlucks. Use any beans you like when you prepare this salad, but keep the edamame. (You'll have fun teaching your family and friends how to say the word.)

Sautéing ground cumin and minced garlic briefly in olive oil infuses their wonderful flavor and fragrance into the light dressing that gets a fresh tang from lime juice.

So, get trendy. Serve Three-Bean Quinoa Salad at your next picnic. Before you can say quinoa and edamame, the bowl will be empty.

Three-Bean Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

1 3/4 cups water

1 1/2 cups (8 ounces) frozen shelled edamame

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

Grated zest and juice from 1 large lime

1 cup chopped red onion

1 cup thinly sliced celery

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Lime wedges for garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 3/4 cups water to a boil. Add the quinoa, cover and simmer over low heat until all of the water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Uncover and let stand to cool a bit.

Cook edamame in a 2-quart saucepan of boiling water for 4 minutes. Have a large bowl of ice water ready. Use a strainer or slotted spoon to transfer edamame from boiling water to the bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain the edamame and set them aside.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet. When oil is hot, add ground cumin and minced garlic. Cook and stir for about 30 seconds to 1 minute over medium-low heat. Cumin will be fragrant and garlic will just begin to turn golden. Do not let garlic get too dark. Pour hot oil mixture into a large heat-proof bowl. Add minced jalapeno. Set aside for about 10 minutes.

Stir in lime juice and grated zest. Add remaining ingredients and toss to mix.

Serve with lime wedges. Diners can squeeze the juice from the lime wedges over their salad. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Tips from the cook

--Preparing the quinoa as directed in this recipe results in a delicious, fluffy, creamy texture.

--Store uncooked quinoa in an airtight container in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to six months.

--If you have any of this salad leftover, you can make a tasty wrap. Mash some avocado and spread it over a whole wheat tortilla. Spoon Three-Bean Quinoa Salad over the avocado. Sprinkle with your favorite cheese. Fold the sides in and then roll the wraps.