Twice as Tasty

Warm Quinoa and Feta Salad

For the first salad of spring, sprinkle handfuls of homegrown baby greens and chives amid robust grains and store-bought fruit

By Julie Laing
Photo by Julie Laing.

As spring arrives, I’m sneaking handfuls of the first crops: chives, walking onions and red sorrel. My spring greens are just sprouting in their outdoor beds, but friends with local CSA shares are already receiving fresh arugula and spinach from their farmers’ sheltered rows. So begins the transition from soups to salads.

My first salads of the season feature pops of green and fresh flavors rather than beds of lettuce buried under homegrown vegetables. This quinoa salad makes the most of what is ready – arugula and chives – and brightens it with lemon and mango. A small Ataulfo mango, sometimes called honey or champagne mango, is the ideal size for this recipe and often ripens more evenly than large varieties.

Farm-fresh eggs provide the most protein and flavor, so I’ve included my tips for hard-boiling them perfectly. If your freshly collected eggs peel unevenly, it can help to add a teaspoon of baking soda to the cooking water to make it alkaline. Boiling the eggs for just 10 minutes creates slightly soft yolks.

I developed this recipe not just for its spring sparkle but also to showcase my homemade dry-salted feta. If you’re buying brined feta, look for high-quality blocks in water, especially those made with sheep’s milk, for the strongest flavor.

Warm Quinoa and Feta Salad

Serves 4

4 fridge-cold eggs

1 cup quinoa

2 cups vegetable stock or water

1/2 lemon, zest and juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Dried chili flakes to taste (optional)

1 cup loosely packed baby arugula

1 Ataulfo mango, cubed

6 tablespoons minced chives or thinly sliced scallions

4 ounces feta, cubed

Bring a small saucepan of water to a full boil, and then lower the heat until bubbles just break the surface. Use a slotted spoon to gently add each cold egg, and then raise the heat enough to keep the water bubbling; cook for 10 to 12 minutes, to your desired hardness. Using the slotted spoon, immediately transfer each egg into a large bowl of ice-cold water for about 15 minutes, until cooled, before peeling under running water and slicing.

Rinse the quinoa; in a small saucepan, combine it and the stock or water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.

Zest the lemon, and then squeeze out 1-1/2 tablespoons of juice and pour it into a small jar; add the salt and pepper. Screw on the lid and shake briskly until the salt dissolves. Add the oil and chili flakes, if desired; reseal and shake the jar for about 30 seconds, until creamy.

Pour the dressing onto the warm quinoa and mix well. Fold in the arugula, mango and chives or scallions until the arugula wilts slightly. Gently fold a few of the egg slices and cheese cubes into the salad; arrange the rest on top. Taste, adjusting the seasonings as needed. Sprinkle with the lemon zest; serve warm.

Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.