Quinoa Salad with Lemon Pepper Tahini Dressing

With tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, yellow peppers and cilantro.

I looked up from my laptop. “Sometimes I really hate Facebook.”

“Why?”

“Couples.”

“Expressing their undying love for one another?”

“I wish that was it,” I said, spinning my laptop around and pointing at my Newsfeed. “Another couple, going at it with passive-aggressive status updates.”

Roo glanced at the screen. “They know people can see this, right?”

“Maybe that’s it? Maybe they’re looking for some kind of justification from friends? Although…” I paused, turning the laptop back around, “I don’t think anyone in their right mind would comment on this.”

“It could be worse.”

“How?”

“Your mom could have finally decided to join Facebook.”

I sighed. “For once I’m thankful my mother is self-proclaimed luddite.”  I said, closing my laptop. “I just don’t understand why couples use Facebook to communicate. Whatever happened to talking?”

Roo shrugged his shoulders and picked up his iPad.  “What’s for lunch?”

“None of your business,” I joked, as I uncrossed my legs and stretched my arms over my head.  I stood up and walked towards the kitchen, mentally going through what we had in the fridge and the cupboard.

I crouched in front of the crisper drawer, pulling out peppers and cilantro when I heard my iPhone vibrate on the kitchen table. “Who’s calling me on a Sunday?” I wondered out loud, picking it up to see Facebook: Roo mentioned you in a comment just before the screen turned off.  “You wrote on my Facebook wall?” I asked, and unlocked my phone to look at my profile page.

You know what I hate? Not knowing what’s for lunch. – with Lys.  Roo wrote.

I laughed and typed back, It’s quinoa salad. Asshole.

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Wheatberry, Corn, Red Onion, Tomato and Arugula Salad

If you’re like me, this may be one of the first times you’ve heard of wheatberries.

It’s ok.  It’s not your fault.

If I repeat that ten more times will we have a moment?

I just don’t want to be Robin Williams.  The body hair alone will give me a complex.

Body hair aside (gross), I’ve never heard of wheatberries until I started perusing creeping the aisles of Whole Foods.

It’s becoming an odd hobby of mine, looking at items in a store that I can afford little in.  And when I got to the “whole grains,” section I learned that I also didn’t know about the majority of what they had in stock.

Spelt. (That just sounds wrong.)

Kamut. (What?)

Millet. (Isn’t that for birds?)

Teff. (No seriously, this one sounds the worst of them all)

You get the point.

I honestly have never seen some of the items, nor knew how to use them in dishes.  I’ve dabbled with quinoa, and I love white whole wheat flour, but actual, “ancient grains?” Clueless.

So I got brave. I grabbed the most innocent sounding of them all: wheatberries.

What, that doesn’t sound innocent to you?

Perv.

I kid, I kid.

What I was actually going to do with the wheatberries, kind of threw me for a loop.

I thought about it on the drive home.  Nothing.

I thought about it while I brushed our cats. Again, nothing. And, I got clawed.

I thought about it while prepping for an experiment, and realized, I shouldn’t be doing that.

So last night, I decided I should just go for it.

I made a salad.  (How anti-climactic.)

The wheatberries soaked up the lovely lime and balsamic dressing, and added an interesting, but welcomed chewy texture.  Raw, fresh picked corn, sweet red onion and juicy, almost bursting with ripeness, tomatoes are some of my favorite components of a “summer salad.”  And with it still being summer (although lately it hasn’t felt like it), I figured why not celebrate these flavors before winter comes with its sad sad warehouse veg that makes me wonder why supermarkets even supply produce that tastes like that.  Paired with a peppery bite from arugula, this dish made me incredibly happy to welcome Roo back from 8th Grade Parent/Teacher night with something refreshing and somewhat hearty.

Serves Two Generously

Adapted from Oh She Glows

Ingredients

For the salad

Half cup wheatberries, cooked according to package’s instructions

One ear of raw fresh sweet corn, with the kernels cut off (you can use grilled, or boiled corn, if the corn in your area isn’t very sweet)

One large beefsteak tomato, cut in half, then into quarter slices (or whatever fresh tomatoes you have on hand)

Half a large red onion, sliced thinly

Two to three big handfuls of arugula, washed and dried well

For the Dressing

Juice from 2 limes

2 tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon agave (or maple syrup)

1 large garlic clove, minced

3 tablespoons good olive oil (I used extra virgin)

Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

A salad spinner (if you have it)

A sharp knife

A small mixing bowl (to whisk your dressing)

A whisk (or a fork will do)

Two plates (to plate your salad with)

Cook your wheatberries according to directions on the package.

While they’re cooking, take your washed and dried arugula and create the first layer of your salad on the two plates.  Scatter the tomatoes, slices of red onion and kernels of corn about on top.

When the wheatberries have finished cooking, drain them, and allow them to cool.

While they cool, add all the ingredients of the dressing in a small mixing bowl.  Whisk them together until combined.

By now your wheatberries have hopefully cooled.  Add a quarter to one third of a cup of wheatberries on top of the arugula, per person.

Dress the salad and serve.

Cherry Tomato Quinoa Salad

This past weekend Roo and I spent the day at Peggotty Beach in Scituate to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  Leading up to that point had been a bit worrisome as the birthday girl wanted to spend it at a roof deck pool.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that we were not cast members of The Hills and didn’t have access to such amenities.  Suggestions were thrown about via email for a few days, as well as a trend of useless facts (“40,000 Americans are injured by toilets each year,”), but thankfully we found a desirable destination due to Roo.

Roo and I drove down to Scituate together, parking the car at his mother’s house.  J was the first to arrive, and we were able to catch up a bit before the birthday girl – driving the rest of the group – showed up.  And she did not disappoint.  She was actually still in party planning overdrive; spending the day before at KMart and The Christmas Tree Shop, buying practically everything one could think of to bring to the beach.  There were beach chairs, towels, coolers filled with drinks, snacks (including a vegetable and a fruit platter) and even an easy-up tent.  Hours before we were to leave for Scituate, she called me with concern, wondering if I had a boom box to keep everyone entertained as we lay there in the sun.  It kind of made me love her more.

Sunbathing, rummaging through the coolers and not talking about work was how we spent our day.

No boom box necessary.

Only when the sun started to go down and the shore nearly cleared out, that we began to pack everything up.

(photo taken by B)

Today I couldn’t help but think of the salty air, pebbly sand beneath my feet, and the hiss and pops of bottles being opened from wonderfully overflowing coolers.  Our third floor apartment is once again hot – and air stubbornly stagnant – despite three fans blowing full blast in the kitchen.

I made another salad.

Like all salads I make, it may not be the prettiest, but it had what I was craving for the day.  A salty bite from feta, juicy, just picked tomatoes, and crunch, with a bit of sweet, from toasted almonds, only to be balanced by a lemony herbaceous oregano vinaigrette.

If you’re run down from this heat – that seems more and more inappropriate, like creepy Uncle Stan when he puts his hand on your knee – then take the day off from the kitchen.  Salads are the new spa day.  Maybe.

Ok, not really, but they’re delicious.

Adapted from Simply Recipes

Serves two generously

Ingredients

One cup cooked quinoa, cooled to room temperature

Quarter to half a head of lettuce (how hungry are you?), washed and dried well, torn or cut into easily edible pieces

A pint of cherry tomatoes, or three beefsteak (or whatever you have on hand that’s ripe) tomatoes, cut into easily edible pieces

1 cucumber (about the length of your hand, from the tip of your middle finger to the wrist), peeled and chopped

3 scallions, thinly sliced (not terribly necessary, just trying to use up my CSA)

One handful of slivered almonds, toasted and cooled to room temperature

Juice from one lemon

Quarter cup of olive oil

1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of dried oregano

Sea salt to taste

Cracked pepper to taste

Equipment

A very sharp knife

A small pan

A salad spinner, if on hand (but it’ll make your life so much easier for only $30!)

A rice cooker or a medium sized pot (can hold up to four cups)

A small bowl that can hold up to a cup of liquid

A whisk

I find that cooking a half cup of quinoa yields about two cups of quinoa.  In a pot add half a cup of quinoa and one cup of water to a boil.  Reduce the heat so that the contents simmer for around 20 minutes or until the quinoa opens up.  The quinoa will reveal a little curly cue tail (like a spiral) and it will be soft to chew (softer than cooked barley).  Drain any remaining liquid and set aside to cool to room temperature.  If you have a rice cooker, throw the quinoa in, adding the water to the “white rice” 0.5 cup level, and press quick cook.  If you and your dinner guest are absolutely famished, you may want to eat a cup of quinoa each over your salad.  I typically serve half a cup of quinoa per person.  With the leftovers you can always make quinoa patties.

While the quinoa is cooking, prep the veg.  Make sure that your lettuce is absolutely dry so the vinaigrette will adhere to it to make a properly dressed salad.

In a small bowl, juice one lemon.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil into the bowl as you whisk.  You should use about a quarter cup for the two to come together, but not all lemons yield the same amount of juice, so keep adding until the mixture is emulsified.  Add the oregano, whisk together and add salt to taste.  Set aside.

Put a handful of slivered almonds into a small pan over medium heat.  Toast the almonds, shaking the nuts in the pan about twice a minute until lightly browned.  Keep an eye on it as it can burn quite quickly from the toasted stage.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

To plate up your salad, put down the lettuce as your base.  Then add the diced cucumbers, quartered tomatoes, cooled quinoa, and top with the toasted almonds.  Sprinkle a bit of feta on top.  Serve with cracked pepper.