There is nothing on this planet that I love more than a pasta salad with an obnoxious amount of garlic. But as good as pasta is, and it is good, sometimes it’s just not the right choice for the job. When you’re looking for something semi-refreshing, for instance, pasta is not your man. Yes, pasta is my love language and yes, it is soul satisfying but it isn’t exactly light even in its chilled format. Enter quinoa, the perfect pasta stand-in for any and all would-be pasta salads. Take today’s Fava Bean Quinoa Salad for instance. You could replace the quinoa with pasta but doesn’t it feel that much more BBQ-side-appropriate with quinoa? Am I crazy? Wait! Don’t answer that.Jump to Recipe
I find myself digging quinoa more and more as the weather heats up and I think I know why. Quinoa has this springy mouthfeel and light finish that lend itself perfectly to summer. And when it hits the stomach, quinoa doesn’t curl itself into a ball and insist that you do the same, I’m looking at you pasta. No, quinoa fills you up but it doesn’t weigh you down. Gosh, I sound like an infomercial. I swear I’m not in the pocket of big quinoa, they don’t need my help.
It’s kind of funny that I’m preaching “Quinoa for Summer”, I’ve been off the stuff for years. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I bought quinoa prior to last week. I think this may be one of only two quinoa recipes on this blog. Contrast that with the million and one pasta recipes and you can see that quinoa has played nothing but a bit part in my life as of late.
But there was a time when quinoa was my world. Yes, there was a point when this high-protein, sorta cereal was my one true starch. Gone were the potatoes, the rice, the pasta from my life. I only had eyes for quinoa in spite of my inability to pronounce it correctly. But I didn’t know that at the time, I would learn that later as an intern reading back the lunch orders to a room full of my superiors. Yeah, I’m still feeling that one.
Somewhere along the way, my relationship with quinoa soured and no, it had nothing to do with being humiliated at my first job that didn’t involve folding sweaters. To be honest, I don’t really know what happened. I just stopped buying it one day and sort of forgot about it. Honestly, it was for the best. I couldn’t afford to buy it all the damn time. Being fresh out of undergrad does not a healthy wallet make. But a few weeks ago, quinoa wandered back into my life and I thought it was looking mighty fine. Am I taking this quinoa as a romantic partner thing too far? You don’t have to answer, I already know.
It was a Saturday evening and I was beyond the outermost reaches of exhaustion. In fact, I was so tired that I didn’t much care if I had dinner or not – this is not remotely normal, food is my favorite part of the day. Due to my lack of interest in eating, I found myself devoid of any food cravings. Again, this is not normal, if I hadn’t been so tired it may have triggered an identity crisis. In the rare instances when I find myself without takeout inspiration, I default to pizza. So, being the adventurous, spontaneous person I am, I decided to order from a new pizza place that recently cropped up in my neighborhood. Don’t worry, this isn’t a cautionary tale. The pizza was good but the salad Bae and I added to our order to ease delivery-related guilt was the real star.
The salad at this place was a sort-of build-your-own situation. So, I read my way through all the salad possibilities and my eyes unexpectedly landed on quinoa. And somewhere, in the corner of my mind, a deep, gnawing craving for the stuff burst forth. And I’m so glad it did because it was so freaking delicious. I forgot the charms of quinoa’s tell-tale spring, the satisfying yet subdued crunch, and its natural attraction to all manner of vinaigrettes and oils. Oh, and they cooked it perfectly al dente without even a whisper of bitterness. They definitely rinsed and toasted their quinoa. To make an unnecessarily long story short, I ate that salad and I bought a bag of quinoa the very next day.
Now, enough about my checkered past with quinoa. Let’s actually talk about this Fava Bean Quinoa Salad with Feta and Herbs because it is a doozy. The vinaigrette alone is enough to inspire a full-blown obsession. Spiked with pomegranate molasses, sesame oil and an aggressive amount of lemon juice, this dressing exudes Middle Eastern flavor and a good amount of zing. And the references to the cuisine don’t stop there. The fava beans and the addition of the dill are more than a passing nod to the Iranian dish Baghali Polo. I’ve written about my obsession with the dish before. And no, I’m still not over it. You don’t get over your first tahdig experience. You just don’t.
So, that’s everything you need to know about this Fava Bean Quinoa Salad and a ton of stuff you didn’t need to know about my history with quinoa. I hope you enjoyed this grain-specific trip down memory lane. And if you chose to skip directly to the recipe, good for you! You made good choices.
Fava Bean Quinoa Salad with Feta and Herbs
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 2 tsp salt divided
- 400g (14 oz) fava beans pods on
- 1 cup feta crumbled
- 1/4 cup fresh dill finely chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh mint finely chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 lemons juiced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water. Set aside to drain.
- Heat a quarter-sized amount of oil in a small saucepan until shimmering. Add the quinoa and toast for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a small saucepan. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool slightly.
- While the quinoa is cooking, take the fava beans out of their pods. Place the beans in a small pot and fill the pot with enough water to cover them. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and boil the beans for 1 minute before draining the beans and transferring them to an ice bath.
- Once the beans are cool enough to handle, remove the outer skin from each bean. This shouldn't be too difficult – the skin should slide off. Place the naked beans in a bowl and set aside.
- Place the quinoa in a large bowl. Add the fava beans, feta, mint and dill to the bowl and set aside.
- In a small bowl whisk to combine the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, sesame oil and the remaining salt. Pour the mixture over the quinoa, fava beans, cheese and herbs and toss to coat.
- Sprinkle the finished salad with additional fresh mint and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve immediately.