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Hostess Quinoa

Soon after Matthew and I started dating, he caught a nasty case of cryptosporidium that left him with no appetite.  I watched a skinny chef get skinnier over the course of a few weeks and felt an overwhelming urge to take care of him the best way I knew how – through food. I was terrified to give my home-cooked food to a chef, fearful that it wouldn’t live up to what I thought he was used to. Still, I made a salad using some of the healthiest ingredients I could think of so he’d have something to snack on during a particularly long night at the restaurant.

I’ll never forget handing over that little container of quinoa salad to him that day after a pre-shift meeting. The entire night I stood up at the hostess stand, wondering what he would think. I spent a good seven or eight hours in suspense before we left the restaurant together. In true Matthew style, all he said about the salad was “That’s really f—ing good. Where’d you buy that?”

Hostess Quinoa 2

Since then, we’ve made this salad dozens of times and it’s always just a little bit different depending on the season. We’ve used green beans in place of asparagus and fresh peas instead of broccoli. Omit the feta to make it vegan. You get the idea – have fun with this one.

Hostess Quinoa

Serves 4-6

1 cup dried quinoa
half a bunch of  medium asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces on the bias
1/2 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
a big handful of sprouts (I used alfalfa)
a big handful sunflower seeds
1 small cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (I leave the skin on for color)
1 avocado, cubed
1/2 cup feta, crumbled

1 clove of garlic, chopped
juice and zest of one lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt

Rinse and drain quinoa. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add quinoa. Simmer covered for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and broccoli into the pot. Wait for the water to come back to a boil and blanch for 30 seconds. Remove asparagus and broccoli and place in an ice water bath to stop them from cooking further.

In the meantime, whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Set aside.

Toss the quinoa, asparagus, broccoli and cilantro. Add the dressing and toss well. Now add the sprouts, sunflower seeds, cucumber, avocado and feta. Stir very gently to distribute the remaining ingredients.

If you are making this salad ahead of time, I recommend adding the avocado and feta just before serving. Enjoy!