Food always tastes better when you’re paying attention. Such was the case when I was on a silent mindfulness meditation retreat a couple weeks ago. The dinners at The Last Resort retreat center are stellar. They’re cooked with joy and served with love by Abhilasha Keays, whose culinary talents just keep blossoming.
One of the new recipes that Abhilasha shared on the recent retreat is a quinoa salad with zucchini and herbs. She sent me the bones of the recipe and then told me how she played with it. I enjoyed the same improvisational spirit as I prepared it, with great results. The combination of lemon, olive oil and mint is especially refreshing, while the chickpeas and feta give it some heft. Try eating it slowly, paying attention to the combination of flavors and textures.
I made this salad to take on a trip to Capitol Reef National Park last weekend. It holds up well for a day or two, making it a great choice for protein-rich lunch breaks while hiking.
I used goat feta cheese, but if you are vegan, you can omit the feta and the salad will still taste great.
To the best of my memory, I’ve written the recipe below. Feel free to add your own special touches:
Quinoa Salad with Zucchini and Herbs
1 cup of quinoa (This made more than needed for the salad. I prepared the extra for breakfast with almond milk, nuts and a little agave.)
3 medium zucchini, chopped in 1/2-inch thick quarter moons
1 small red onion, sliced thinly in half moons
2 T coconut oil
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
1/3 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
6 chives, thinly sliced
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 t lemon zest (or more if you like lemon)
juice of one lemon
cherry tomatoes cut in half or other fresh tomatoes cut in 1-inch pieces
4 ounces feta cheese, broken into small pieces (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Rinse quinoa in a fine-screen strainer. Boil two cups of water in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
Sauté the onion in the oil for about 3-4 minutes. Add the zucchini and sauté about 5 minutes more, until the onion is translucent. Add the chickpeas, toasted walnuts, chives, mint, lemon zest and lemon juice. Taste for salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon of olive oil if you like.
To serve, place 1/2-1 cup of quinoa onto a plate. Spoon the zucchini mixture onto the quinoa and sprinkle with feta cheese. Add tomatoes to each plate.
I like keeping the quinoa and the veggies separate until I serve the salad, because the quinoa can absorb the flavors of the lemon juice and olive oil. Keeping them separate allows the veggies to retain their flavor, even after a day or two.