Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have gotten the wrong impression. Sure, I’ve done the odd bit of grilling here and there, but with the exception of this salad awhile back, I have been eating horribly unseasonably for most of the summer. I have been to the farmers’ market zero times, I do not have a CSA membership, and my status at the co-op falls somewhere between “not allowed to shop” and “utterly disgraced.”
After an especially brutal weekend—one filled with ghetto Chinese, pizza, and food poisoning from said pizza—I was perhaps particularly susceptible to the charms of a light, clean dish of unquestionable provenance, but I was still surprised when a friend’s tweet provoked an instantaneous craving for something simple, fresh, and homemade. Clearly, my body was trying to tell me that one cannot live on takeout, Sour Patch Kids and Nutty Bars alone.
Inspired by a dish I had in Copenhagen (one that, naturally, I haven’t told y’all about yet), I wanted something with a strong dill flavor; ultimately, I decided to make a quinoa salad with that would pair the herb with tomato, cucumber, feta, and scallion, its classically complementary counterparts.
The end result wasn’t groundbreaking or earth-shattering, but it was cool and refreshing and maybe possibly a tiny bit healthy to boot, especially since most of the dressing—a lemony, garlicky, delectably dilly concoction—wound up on my kitchen floor when the bottom of my blender fell out. (…Yeah.) But mechanical difficulties notwithstanding, I couldn’t have been happier. I had every intention of making this my lunch for the rest of the week and even parceled it out accordingly; instead, I found myself in the kitchen last night with spoon in hand, polishing off the one remaining portion. Clearly, this is because the salad was completely irresistible, not because I have (well-documented) self-control issues. A body knows what it wants.
2 cups quinoa, dry
Olive oil (optional)
4 cups broth or water
1/2 teaspoon table salt (optional)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea), or to taste
4 strips of lemon zest
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup dill, packed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil [I used less; start with 1/4 cup and add more to taste]
Pinch of sugar (optional)
2 large scallions, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1 small cucumber, cut into 1/2″ dice
Feta cheese, to taste
1. Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Rub and swish quinoa with your hand while rinsing, and rinse for at least 2 minutes under running water. Drain.
2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saucepan or dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add drained quinoa. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, letting the water evaporate. Stir in broth or water and salt (if using) and bring to a rolling boil. Turn heat down to the lowest setting. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, then urn off the heat and remove quinoa from the burner. Let stand for 5 minutes, covered. Remove lid, fluff quinoa gently with a fork, and let it cool for a few minutes.
3. While quinoa cooks, combine next 10 ingredients (lemon juice through sugar, if using) in a blender or food processor; purée and set aside.
4. In a large bowl, combine scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, and feta. (I like equal parts cucumber and tomato, so I didn’t use the entire pint of tomatoes; adjust scale as you see fit.) Add a dollop of dressing and mix well. Set aside.
5. Add quinoa to vegetables and stir to combine. Add more dressing and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.