Simple Pleasures.

Simple Pleasures.
Irish soda bread on its way up North with Noah.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Perfect Summer Quinoa Salad

Crunchy. Vibrant. Mouthwatering. Satisfying. And utterly guilt-free.  Five good reasons to make this  simple quinoa tabouleh salad this very weekend. And again over July Fourth. Your mouth will thank you. Your body will thank you. And you will look back on all those gut-busting summer BBQs and say, "How the heck did I stomach all that gloppy potato salad and soupy cole slaw?"

Now, I'm sure you know all about quinoa. I was an earlyish adopter after I wrote an article about the stuff for Real Simple probably a decade ago. But just in case you weren't aware, it's not a grain, but a seed. It is one of the only plant foods that is considered a complete protein and boasts all essential amino acids. Now compare that to starchy, nutritionally vapid pasta and potatoes!

None of this would mean squat if this nifty little salad from Ina Garten's Make It Ahead cookbook tasted like old hippie groats. Far from it. Think of it as a kissing cousin of a Greek salad. It's got the tomatoes, the feta, the cukes. But the quinoa makes it more substantial. And a perfect side for grilled steak, chicken or fish.

So give it a go. You'll feel so good and virtuous, you might just pass up that peach pie at dessert for a crunchy slice of watermelon. On second thought….fat chance!

1 cup quinoa
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 good olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts (5 scallions)
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and medium-diced
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved through the stem
2 cups medium-diced feta (8 ounces)

Pour 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, until the grains are tender and open (they'll have little curly tails). Don't over cook or you'll have mush. Drain if necessary, place in a bowl, and IMMEDIATELY add the lemon juice, olive oil and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt (less if you are using regular salt and less, too, if you don't like your food salty or have very salty feta). Fluff and blend with a fork.

In a large bowl, combine the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Add the quinoa and mix well. Carefully fold in the feta and taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary. Serve at room temp or refrigerate and serve cold.

You can prepare this salad without the feta, cover and refrigerate it for up to 4 days. Fold in the feta and serve. I've never waited that long but that's what Ina says. This makes enough for about 8 sides.

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