Quinoa and corn are a natural combo. They not only pair well tastewise — with quinoa’s soft texture and mild, earthy flavor and corn’s sweet, juicy kernels — they are both staples of traditional Peruvian cuisine, so it seems fitting to combine them as the foundation of these Latin-American-leaning grain bowls.
Ears of fresh corn are grilled out of the husk so they char a bit, adding flecks of smoky flavor to the mix. The kernels are tossed with the just-cooked quinoa (which I invariably find comes out lighter and fluffier when you use slightly less liquid than most packages call for) and served in bowls topped with sliced grilled chicken breast, a crunch of cucumber and radish and slices of buttery avocado.
Those components are all drizzled with a lime-brightened, fresh cilantro and basil sauce that is made simply with a whir of the food processor. The sauce, chicken and corn can all be prepared a few days ahead, so you just need to cook the quinoa (which takes 15 minutes) and slice the vegetables when you are ready to eat.
To switch up the toppings, you could use shredded rotisserie chicken, grilled shrimp, and/or black beans instead of the chicken breast; and jicama, shredded carrot, tomatoes and grilled zucchini would all work in a meatless bowl. However you top it, you are in for a delightful, healthful one-bowl meal.
Corn and quinoa bowls with herb sauce
For the sauce
½ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 scallion, white and light green part, dark greens sliced and reserved for garnish
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
For the bowls
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, pounded to ½-inch thickness
3 ears corn, shucked
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¾ cup quinoa
1 ¼ cups no-salt-added chicken broth
½ English cucumber, chopped
2 medium radishes, thinly sliced
Flesh of 1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced
4 lime wedges, for serving
For the bowls: Prepare a grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, turn the heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly in the grill. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand 6 inches above the coals for 4 or 5 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: Combine the cilantro, basil, scallion, the ¼ cup of oil, the lime juice, water, salt and crushed red pepper flakes in a mini food processor; blend to form a smooth sauce.
Brush the chicken and the corn with the tablespoon of oil and season them with the salt. Then season the chicken with the pepper and the cumin.
Transfer the chicken and corn to the grill and close the lid. Cook the chicken for 4 or 5 minutes per side; cook the corn for about 15 minutes, until tender, turning it with tongs every 3 or 4 minutes so it is evenly cooked.
Let the chicken and the corn rest 5 for minutes, then slice the chicken and cut the kernels off the corn (reserving the cobs for another use, if desired).
Make ahead: The sauce, chicken and corn can be refrigerated up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
When ready to serve, combine the quinoa and broth in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, so all the liquid is absorbed.
Uncover and fluff with a fork, then stir in the corn.
Divide the quinoa/corn mixture among individual bowls. Arrange the chicken slices, cucumber, radishes and avocado on top. Drizzle with the sauce and garnish with scallion greens and lime wedges. Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition per serving (using 6 tablespoons sauce): 490 calories, 33 grams protein, 38 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 85 milligrams cholesterol, 560 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber, 7 grams sugar.