Even though this weekend was rainy and a little one the chilly side (“chilly” meaning 63 degrees, now that we’ve been spoiled by 80+ weather for the past couple weeks), I’m pretty sure summer’s official here. In the cool weather, my friends and I hunkered down and watched the World Cup all day. (I’m not even sick of it yet.) But the past couple weeks saw gorgeous weather, which meant hiking, bike rides galore, a barbecue, and a short backpacking trip in the beautiful Columbia Gorge.
While all that makes me sounds like the healthiest person on the planet, really what the last few weeks have been is one giant period of indulgence. I’ve been doing a decent amount of baking, but not doing a good job of taking pictures of it. There have been lots of dessert-fueled going away parties for people at my office. And since we all know summer doesn’t really start in the Pacific Northwest until July 4, these few sunny weeks have led themselves quite generously to patio happy hours. When I say my friends and I “hunkered down” to watch the world cup, I mean we continued our happy hours inside.
So last week, I really needed something healthy for lunch, and this quinoa tabbouleh was just the right thing. I’ve made it once before, in the winter, to combat the cloudiness. But this time, it was just what I needed to set myself back on my normal mostly-healthy track. With tomatoes coming into season, this will be even better for you than it was for me. This salad is the perfect thing to eat for lunch all week, or just what you need to lighten up an indulgent barbecue.
Quinoa Tabbouleh is light but filling. The quinoa has a great nutty taste and texture. Tomatoes add some flavor, red onion a nice kick, and feta just the right amount of saltiness fat. I added chickpeas to the recipe to make it a little heartier. But the real star of the tabbouleh show is parsley. Use the whole bunch – it may look like a lot, but it’s really what tabbouleh should taste like. The original recipe calls for mint, which I could only find as an entire plant, so I omitted it. I think it would be delicious though, so I’ve included it here.
Adapted just slightly from The Kitchn
Makes about 7 cups, enough for 4-6 people or a one-person week-long lunch
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 red onion
2 medium tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch parsley (about 2 cups)
1 bunch mint (about 1/2 cup)
1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
8 ounces feta cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
extra lemon juice to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the quinoa under cool water for about a minute. Cook according to package directions. The way that’s worked best for me is to bring 2 cups of water to a boil for every cup of quinoa, add the quinoa to the boiling water, cook uncovered until the water is nearly gone (about 15 minutes) and the quinoa is done, then remove from heat, partially cover, and let steam for about 5 minutes. This took me some trial and error, though, and package directions are probably best.
Meanwhile, dice the onion and place it in a bowl with water and pinch of salt. Soaking the onion will remove some of the bite. (I skipped this step last time I made this, but I’ve got a big soft spot for onions.) Quarter the tomatoes and remove the seeds. Dice the remaining tomato flesh. Mince the garlic, parsley, and mint.
When the quinoa is done, empty it into a large bowl and let it cool to almost room temperature. It should feel barely warm to the touch. This will help the dressing coat it without the quinoa absorbing too much.
When the quinoa is cooled, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice with a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture over the quinoa and stir until evenly coated. Stir in the onion, tomatoes, garlic, parsely, mint, and chickpeas. Crumble the feta onto the salad and stir it in gently. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt and pepper as desired.
Serve cold or at room temperature. This tabbouleh is better the next day when all the flavors have combined.
A couple weeks ago, I was stuck in a lunch rut. Since starting my 9-5 desk job I’ve tried to keep my lunches as interesting and varied as possible, since, sadly, unless there’s a holiday potluck or it’s time for the monthly birthday party, I can pretty much guarantee lunch is the most exciting part of my day. I’d been through a pretty lengthy hummus-and-veggies stage, a salami sandwich phase, a few failed attempts at a salad phase (it just never tastes as good as I think it will), a pretty delightful peanut butter and jelly phase, and a random snacks all day phase.
Needless to say I needed to change my game a bit. I like the idea of salad, but it was just never filling enough to make the cut, even if I did add tons of vegetables and beans. So I thought if I made the salad out of something hearty and filling and just happened to add a few greens to it, that might be just the thing that could get me out of my lunch rut.
So I did a little poking around, knowing I wanted to use quinoa because not only is it a complete protein, it’s totally delicious. I found this winter fruit salad, changed a couple things when I couldn’t find the ingredients, and it totally did the trick! I think I’ve pulled myself out of my lunch rut. For now at least. I’ve made two other quinoa salads after this one, so we’ll see how long this phase lasts.
Quinoa is a great salad base. It’s healthy but also has a great nutty flavor. This one is packed with winter fruits. I added black beans to make this salad even more hearty, and the arugula gives it a nice spicy kick.
Quinoa and Winter Fruit Salad with Arugula
Adapted from foodandwine.com
1 1/3 cups quinoa (about 1/2 pound)
1 2/3 cups water
1 tangerine, segmented, seeded, and chopped
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup pure olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large Bosc pear, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bag arugula
Rinse the quinoa for 2-3 minutes with cold water in a mesh strainer. This will take away the bitterness. Place the quinoa and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, and simmer until the water is nearly all absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let steam for 5 minutes. Place the quinoa in a large bowl and let cool completely.
In a small bowl, add the tangerine, cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, and let sit for 5 minutes.
Add the pear, cucumber, and black beans to the cooled quinoa and toss. Add the dressing and toss until absorbed. If you’ll be serving/eating all the salad at the same time, add in the arugula and toss. If you want to eat it over a few days, only sever with as much arugula as you need, and refrigerate the leftover quinoa separate from the arugula.
Yesterday, after a full three days of Thanksgiving food, bar food, and beer, I finally had a salad. It was glorious and delicious and totally necessary. I was craving vegetables. And not creamy, buttery, bread crumb-topped vegetables. The fresh kind. I also needed my four days at home, complete with mountain views and a gorgeous sunset and lots of catching-up time with family and friends. No work, no answering to anyone, and the only decisions I had to make were in the wheelhouse of “Do I really want more pie?” (Yes. I did.) Complete relaxation. Facilitated in part by this beauty:
If you’re like me and still not fully recovered from the perma-food coma that was last week, this salad will set you right back on track. It’s got tons of vegetables, beans for heartiness, and tuna for that bit of saltiness you’re still craving. It does not have mayo, bread crumbs, cheese (though that would be a good idea), or bacon (also would be really tasty). Just simple fresh ingredients to wake you from your food coma. Or help you get rid of your food baby. Whichever you prefer.
We start off with tuna, beans, cucumber, onion, and a few dressing ingredients.
Then we slap it on a bed of lettuce, slice some avocado, and liberally sprinkle salt and pepper all over the top.
Mediterranean Tuna Salad
Adapted from Shutterbean (she had me at “no mayo”)
1 can tuna, drained
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/3-1/2 of a cucumber, chopped
Juice of 1 small lemon
splash of red wine vinegar
a couple tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Toss it all in a bowl and mix it up! Arrange with lettuce and avocado on a plate or in a bowl, and salt and pepper to taste. This is great as a salad, and also on toast or as a pasta salad.
This is a recipe that welcomes alterations and additions. Tomatoes would be great – I just don’t like them (I know. It’s weird. I try them every couple months just to make sure). You want to leave out the cucumber? Cool. Add parsley? Good call. It’s all up to you and what your Thanksgiving belly is craving.