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Quinoa vegetable salad is your road map for using what’s on hand

This fulfilling, nutritious salad packed with texture and flavor is meant as a quick, pull-together meal, with variations based on what might be in the refrigerator.  (Tom McCorkle/For the Washington Post)
This fulfilling, nutritious salad packed with texture and flavor is meant as a quick, pull-together meal, with variations based on what might be in the refrigerator. (Tom McCorkle/For the Washington Post)
By Ellie Krieger Special To The Washington Post

I have made this salad so many times this summer, it has come to feel like a good habit. It sure is one that’s easy to stick to, a reliable combination of tasty, nourishing ingredients, easily kept on hand, and varied based on whatever ingredients happen to be in the kitchen. Though I have mostly whipped up a single serving for myself for a quick lunch or dinner, and I have written it up that way it’s a cinch to multiply in case of last minute pop-ins (which seem to happen a lot when my daughter is in town from college).

The basic template is this: cooked grain + bean + cooked vegetable + raw vegetable + leafy greens + onion, all tossed with lemon juice, olive oil and feta cheese.

The key is to have a batch of cooked grain in the refrigerator ready to go: Quinoa, farro, sorghum, barley and bulgur are all good options. Any type of bean works, though I am partial to chickpeas or cannellini here. For the cooked vegetable, I usually toss in a handful of grilled zucchini, which I make routinely throughout the summer, but you can use any cooked vegetable you have on hand. For the raw vegetable, tomatoes are an easy win this time of year, but go ahead and use up whatever needs to get eaten – celery, cucumber and radishes would all add a fresh crunch. The same goes for the leafy green. I lean toward arugula, but any tender green should work well.

Add some scallion, red onion or sweet white onion, then toss it all together with olive oil and lemon juice and, finally, crumbled feta cheese, which brings in a creamy, salty lusciousness. If feta’s not your thing, swap in a different cheese or add a generous sprinkle of nutritional yeast to make it vegan.

Whatever variations you go with, you will wind up with a fulfilling, nutritious meal packed with exciting textures and flavors, a salad I hope will become a good habit for you, too.

Quinoa and Vegetable Salad With Feta

1 cup baby arugula, or other tender leafy greens

½ cup cooked quinoa, ideally red or tricolor, or other cooked grain such as farro or bulgur

½ cup cooked chickpeas or another bean (drained and rinsed if canned)

½ cup chopped grilled zucchini or another cooked vegetable

½ cup quartered grape tomatoes or another chopped fresh vegetable, such as cucumber or celery

1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallion or chopped red or sweet onion

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Pinch fine salt

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup (1 ounce) crumbled feta cheese

In a large bowl, toss together the arugula, quinoa, chickpeas, zucchini, tomatoes and scallion until combined. Add the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss to coat, then toss in the feta cheese and serve.

Yield: 1 serving

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