Quinoa Salad with Feta and Mint

How do I love quinoa? Let me count the ways: it’s a whole grain that’s actually a seed (I wrote an article for NPR in 2007 – my first-ever food story~! – identifying quinoa as a ‘whole grain’ and was not-so-politely informed by several readers it is in fact a seed. So: quinoa = seed. Though why quibble? I just call it ‘good’.); it’s loaded with protein; it’s a vegan’s (and vegetarian) saving grace/daydream; it can be served in a sweet or savory preparation; it’s fairly easy and quick to prepare; did I mention it’s good and good for you?

I haven’t written about quinoa since last June – nearly a year ago. That’s far too too long ago. Plus, it’s been all sweets all the time here lately and lest I give the impression I lounge around nibbling cake and drinking tea and spooning rhubarb compote into my gaping maw as fast as I possibly can … there’s a lot of vegetable action going on, too. Like last night: we ate brown rice topped with sesame-fried tofu, sauteed chard, and steamed broccoli (plus some sunflower seeds, which I can’t seem to get enough of lately). And last weekend: I had a single-girl couple of days wherein I basically just ate vegetables, vegetables, and more vegetables (plus a bit of cheese, of course) non-stop.

Saturday night was a really sort of beautiful night: I’d done all my little errands of farmers’ marketing and visiting my little organic store and gazed happily at my stack of library books. I’d drunk numerous cups of tea and done the laundry (these things make me feel very satisfied, it’s true). I’d made myself a pile of nachos (black beans, the last of an avocado, sour cream) for a late-afternoon snack and stretched out on the couch after, sipping sparkling water and listening to the classic rock station. It was very quiet, other than the radio, and though I was surprised to find I was perhaps the tiniest bit lonely I savored that loneliness a bit. After all, I used to live alone all the time – it’s a peculiar pleasure to be gifted a few days here and there of alone-time, of quiet-time, of eating-whatever-I-like-when-I-like-to time. (Not that I want it all the time, just … if one’s husband is out of town and one is left to one’s own devices it’s not always bad.) If that makes sense. I cooked a lot and exercised a lot and read a lot and took a lot of photos. The simple things, always.

The best thing I could think of to do after all that was to make a new (to me) quinoa recipe I’d come across via Gourmet (online). As quinoa is my enduring obsession and love, I’m always looking for new ways to prepare it. Crazy as this may sound, quinoa to me means comfort – familiar, soothing, my favorite thing. When I punched it up with lemon zest, green onions, loads of of chopped mint, a generous handful of salty feta cheese, and topped it off with sunflower seeds, it also meant dinner.

And, lord, it was so good. I ate two full bowls that night, just that and nothing else. (Who could have wanted anything else?) It was so good I made it again for my book club on Tuesday night to counter the chocolate chips cookies and cheese we also consumed. And I’m seriously considering making it as part of this week’s Sunday dinner, though I’ll have to restrain myself after that so I don’t burn out on it. But! It’s my New Favorite Quinoa Dish, light yet satisfying, truly, utterly spring. Perfect for the warmer days easing in throughout most of the country except San Francisco (whinge) – though truth be told today is absolutely glorious – and the upcoming summer season of potlucks and barbecues just around the corner.

Or, you know, just any Saturday night.


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  1. I made the quinoa in this fashion last night and it was wonderful! I improvised slightly because I do not have a large mesh strainer/sieve, but it still worked well. I also added celery for extra crunch. Thanks for passing this recipe along.

  2. Thanks for sharing the tip for never mushy quinoa! I am definitely trying this.

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