On our recent trip down to Key West, we drove through a south Florida agricultural region that had one market stand after another selling tropical fruit. Just looking at the piles of papaya, mangoes, and avocados had me dreaming about all the amazing dishes I could create with them when I got back home. Florida has amazing fresh produce including tropical fruit that is grown locally in south Florida year round. Since we will be heading back to Umbria in less than two months where these types of tropical fruits are very difficult to find, I realized recently that I need to enjoy this local fresh produce while I can, and I quickly planned some upcoming meals utilizing these tropical fruits in the next couple of weeks.
I make a variety of grain based salads every week that include a mixture of seasonal fruits and vegetables. When I’m in Umbria, farro is the most popular grain used so it is usually my grain of choice, but here in North America a larger variety of grains are available and I often choose quinoa for my salads as it cooks so quickly. In this particular salad, I combined a quinoa blend (red and white) with papayas and mangoes, as well as creamy avocados and sweet cherry tomatoes. I also added some chopped green onions and then when I served the salad I sprinkled it with chopped toasted pecans for crunch. Trader Joe’s has delicious lightly candied toasted pecans that I often have on hand for salads. To create additional texture in this salad, you could also add some chopped celery and/or sweet red pepper if you wanted to. To dress this salad I made a tangy dressing using fresh lime juice, honey, mint, parsley, and olive oil.
Papayas are large, pear or spherical fruits that can grown as long as 20 inches in length, though smaller ones are more commonly sold in North American markets. Papayas are not only delicious, they are rich sources of antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, vitamin C and flavonoids; the B vitamins, folate and pantothenic acid; and the minerals, potassium and magnesium; and fiber. If you want to eat the papaya within a day or two of purchase, choose papayas that have reddish-orange skin and are slightly soft to the touch. Those that have patches of yellow color will take a few more days to ripen. I choose mangoes that have some red in their skins and will slightly indent when pressed with your fingertips. Unripe mangoes have little flavor and are not suitable for this salad.
If you haven’t jumped on the quinoa bandwagon yet, this salad might be a great start. Quinoa has been cultivated for thousands of years and although it is often categorized as a grain, it is actually the small seed of a plant in the same family as beets and spinach. The seed is disc shaped with a band around it that becomes obvious once it has been cooked. It is a fast cooking grain and can be ready in about 15 minutes. Unlike most grains, quinoa is considered a complete protein containing all the necessary amino acids. It is also a great source of fiber, and a decent source of iron, magnesium, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin E.
Deborah Mele 2014
Tropical Fruit Quinoa Salad
- 1 1/2 Cups Mixed Quinoa
- 1/2 Medium Ripe Papaya, Peeled, Seeded, & Cut Into 1-inch Dice, About 2 Cups
- 1 Ripe Mango, Peeled & Cut Into 1-inch Dice
- 1 Medium Ripe Avocado, Peeled & Cut Into 1-inch Dice
- 1 Pint Ripe Cherry Tomatoes, Cut In Half
- 6 Green Onions (Scallions), Chopped
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Honey
- Juice From 3 Limes
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Fresh Mint
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley Leaves
- 2 Tablespoons Grated Fresh Ginger
- 3/4 Cup Chopped Lightly Toasted Pecans
- Place 3 cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Add the quinoa, cover and reduce heat to a simmer.
- Cook the quinoa for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked.
- Cool the quinoa to room temperature.
- In a large bowl, gently toss together the papaya, mango, avocado, tomatoes, and onion.
- Add the cooled quinoa and gently mix.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour this over the salad and gently toss to coat.
- Serve in bowls, sprinkling the top of the salad with the chopped pecans.