I became a vegetarian over 20 years ago (and sheesh, I’m really showing my age when I say that!). But when I did, I pored over all the cookbooks I took out of the library (using the card catalog! eek!) and took home every vegetarian cookbook I could get my hands on. One of the most frustrating things for me is that, a new vegetarian with very little cooking experience, I was not only confronted with a new diet, but was absolutely clueless as to half of the ingredients that these cookbooks called for. What was soya? What was millet? Or bulgher? Or quinoa? I came from a very midwestern, meat-and-potatoes kind of family and I was confounded with all this new information.
But, I’m a good student, and I made my way, twice a month, to the only health food store in town, a little place leftover from the hippie days that featured all sorts of strange things like bulk bins, ethnic ingredients and strange vegetables I had never heard of, much less tried before. And so I dutifully picked one or two new grains to try every month, one or two new vegetables, and the unusual-named ingredients became a part of my cooking repertoire. My sister followed in my vegetarian footsteps a few years later, and we had great fun making each other new and interesting dishes for our family get togethers.
Fast-forward a couple decades and all these “unusual” ingredients are found in the aisles of every mainstream grocery store. Health food stores are popping up in every city. And there are still fun and exciting new foods to try! I’m so grateful for the abundance and availability of things that were once so difficult to find. Especially quinoa!
Quinoa is one of my favorite grain-type foods. I love the nutty flavor, the texture, everything about it. We’ve eaten it hot in casseroles and under stir-fries; we’ve eaten it cold in salads. We’ve sweetened it for breakfast cereals and we’ve eaten it savory in frittatas and other egg dishes. We’ve eaten golden quinoa and red quinoa – and even black quinoa! It’s so incredibly versatile and delicious that it’s become a staple part of our diets. So when my sister called me a few weeks ago to tell me about her newest quinoa creation, I had to try it right away.
Now my sister’s tastes and mine are quiet different. She likes things… bland (my word, not hers!) and I prefer food that is much more seasoned and flavorful. So I took her basic salad and tweaked it just a little and came up with this winner – a perfectly refreshing, and very healthy salad that’s great for summer days.
This green quinoa salad recipe was the star of several picnics we had over the past couple of days. It just tastes green! The spinach, arugula and cucumbers can be garden fresh, and the feta cheese gives it just the right amount of tang, balancing out the vegetables and blending with the quinoa. I love the added lemon flavor, but if you prefer a more basic salad like my sister, you can use a good quality olive oil alone. It still is a wonderful salad and I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!