Quinoa Salad with Grapes, Avocado and Feta Cheese

What you're looking at up there is what I've been eating for lunch just about every day for the past couple of weeks.  And I just made another batch.  Up until my discovery of this luscious little salad, lunchtime around here was really nothing to get worked up about... a slice of turkey, maybe a clementine or a piece of cheese.  Like I said, nothing very exciting.

All of that changed after I made this as a side dish for dinner and the leftovers beckoned at lunch the next day.  Let me say that before it transformed my lunches, it totally charmed us at dinner; the sweet of the grapes, the crunch of cucumber, the bright notes from lime and mint.  I added some feta cheese for a salty kick, and of course, a little avocado is always a good thing. 

If you haven't made quinoa very often (or ever), it couldn't be easier.  Just don't follow 90% of the recipes you'll read online.  I've mentioned this before, but as with rice, the 2-1 ratio of water to quinoa will 100% of the time result in mush.  Don't do it.  For 1 cup of quinoa, you'll want to use 1 1/2 cups of water and a little salt and you will be rewarded with fluffy deliciousness.  I'm pretty sure that people think they don't like quinoa because they're not cooking it right.  You'll find more specific instructions in the recipe below.

A recent discovery that I've been using quite a bit lately is that little container of True Lime up there.  I ordered it online and don't use it so much in place of lime, but to boost the lime flavors in certain dishes.  One of the best things about this salad was the hit of lime and rather than adding more juice which could have made the whole thing a bit soggy, I sprinkled in a little of this lime powder and it gave a little boost of brightness.  It's also awesome in guacamole and on fish or anywhere you're looking for a citrus-y punch.  (And no, I received no monetary reward for that endorsement).

It goes without saying that any barbecue, picnic or summer bash will be all the better if you add this to your menu.  Just make a little extra and give yourself an awesome lunch to look forward to. Here's the recipe...

Quinoa Salad with Grapes, Avocado and Feta Cheese

This was a delicious salad recipe as written, but I felt it needed just a couple of tweaks, the first being to move the avocado from the inside of the salad to the top where it retains its flavor and bite (it gets pretty mushy after a few hours if stirred into the quinoa).  The other tweak was to add some feta cheese which gave it a nice little salty kick.  There is no doubt that the key to this salad is the lime.  Don't skimp on the lime zest, and you could even replace some of the olive oil with a little more lime juice if you wanted. Trust me on this one.  Good stuff.

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe adapted from Katie Lee

Zest and juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup of quinoa
2 cups grapes, halved
1 1/2 cups diced cucumbers
1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
4 scallions, white and light green parts, sliced
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
diced avocado for serving

Rinse the quinoa really well in a strainer set into a larger bowl.  Swish the quinoa around in the water and then drain.  Repeat this 2 or 3 times to remove the bitter coating on the quinoa.

Place the drained quinoa in a pan with 1 ½ cups water and ½ teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cover the pan and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the lid and fluffing with a fork.  Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together lime zest, lime juice and olive oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Toss the cooled quinoa, grapes, cucumbers, mint, parsley, scallions and feta cheese together in the bowl with the dressing. Sprinkle with diced avocado.  Serve chilled.

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