We have heard of Tabbouleh, a grain salad made from whole wheat, and I think that I have seen boxed mixes that will help you make it at some of Tucson's health-oriented stores like Sprouts. But lately we have been making lunch to eat after church, and some of my friends are making a Quinoa salad that is really good.
Quinoa is a grain that comes from South America and is highly nutritious. It also comes in a variety of appetizing colors, my favorite being red. My Peruvian husband is very familiar with it and considers it "poor food," like gallo pinto in Costa Rica (which I also love and ask him to make all the time).
Making Quinoa is like cooking couscous--you cover it with water, drain it when it has cooked and then you have the basics for making something. But like couscous, Quinoa has little intrinsic flavor and it needs something. What flavor it has is mildly nutty, and so the salad recipe I have provided includes pine nuts.
The dressing calls for lemon juice, but you could also use red-wine vinegar or even a half-cup of Italian-style vinaigrette. Creamy dressings don't suit this type of salad, although it is fine with a pasta salad.
I buy Eden Organic Quinoa at Sprouts in Tucson, but other brands are available as well. The grains of uncooked Quinoa are so small that I don't think it is practical to offer it in bulk, so look for packages in the macaroni/pasta aisle.
1-1/2 cups quinoa
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 small cucumber, peeled and finely diced
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
1/2 cup scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Bring 2 quarts salted water to a boil. Add the quinoa, cover, and reduce your heat to medium-low. Simmer 12 to 14 minutes, or until quinoa is tender and small “tails” bloom from grains.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spread the pine nuts on baking sheet and toast 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are lightly browned. Cool, then transfer to a serving bowl.
Drain the quinoa, and rinse under cold running water. Drain again. Add the quinoa to pine nuts, and stir in the cucumber, tomatoes, onion, and parsley. Fold in the oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
One difference between Quinoa salad and the other pasta/Tabbouleh types is that Quinoa will give you a gluten-free menu item, which some people look for and will appreciate, as at an office party.
I often think of Constance, a woman who was part of management when I worked at APAC, a call center in Tucson. She abstains from gluten, so I wish I had brought a Quinoa salad to a luncheon once in the year that I worked there.