Finishing a cookbook, or any massive project, really, is terrifying. A few nights ago, after I stayed up too late looking for any remaining last-minute issues, I tossed and turned while Oxford commas and the names of various ground spices bounced around in my head.
I finally woke up from a dream that I skateboarded, belly down, all the way to my parent’s house. I arrived to find that my family had eaten all of the chocolate cake. Dad!
Last night, I reviewed the book for the final time—truly, the last time—to make sure all of my requests had been implemented. I sent it back, fully apprehensive, with my mind full of second-guesses and self-doubt. Did I overdo it on the dog pictures? Are people going to take this book seriously? It’s very colorful. Are the recipes in the order that they should be?
That margarita photo that I was so proud of last year—I want to redo it because the ice cube is out of focus. It’s too late. And the little clock icon isn’t in quite the right place on page 197. Surely they can fix that part. (Update: they fixed it.) Send help, or wine. I’m losing it over here.
At least I have been eating better lately. I just polished off the last of this salad for lunch. I’ve had the concept floating around since I made my herbed quinoa and chickpea salad. It was so good that I started craving a Mexican version, and this is it. Sort of.
I used sun-dried tomatoes because regular tomatoes are out of season, and because they offer more intense flavor. I used green onions instead of red, because raw red onion so often overpowers other flavors. I added kale for some redeeming greens, but you could use spinach instead, if you’d rather. I used feta instead of authentic Mexican Cotija cheese, as usual, since I can’t ever find Cotija.
The rest—black beans, pepitas, cilantro, jalapeño, lime, and cumin—are all standard Mexican ingredients. It’s a great salad, perfect for resetting after indulgent holidays. Hope you love it!
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed in a fine-mesh colander
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
- 1 small bunch of curly green or Tuscan kale, tough ribs removed and chopped into small pieces (or about 3 cups roughly chopped baby spinach)
- Fine sea salt
- 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained, or 1½ cups cooked black beans
- ½ cup thinly sliced green onions or finely chopped red onion
- ½ cup lightly packed chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and chopped
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
- 1 to 2 medium jalapeños, seeds and membranes removed, chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 2 medium limes)
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- To cook the quinoa: Combine the rinsed quinoa and the water in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, about 15 minutes, reducing heat as time goes on to maintain a gentle simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let the quinoa rest for 5 minutes, which gives it time to fluff up.
- Meanwhile, toast the pepitas in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and making little popping noises, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Place the chopped kale in a large serving bowl. Sprinkle it lightly with salt and massage it with your hands by scrunching up large handfuls at a time until it's darker and more fragrant (this makes the kale more tasty and easier to eat). Add the cooked quinoa, toasted pepitas, drained beans, onions, cilantro, sun-dried tomatoes, feta (if using), and jalapeño(s). Set aside.
- To prepare the dressing, combine the olive oil, 3 tablespoons of lime juice, the cumin and salt in a cup or jar. Whisk until blended. Pour all of the dressing over the salad and stir until the salad is evenly coated. Taste, and add another tablespoon of lime juice (I like this salad to be pretty zippy) and/or more salt, if necessary. For best flavor, let the salad rest for about 15 minutes before serving.
- This salad keeps well, covered and chilled, for about 3 days. You might want to wake up leftovers with an extra squeeze of lime juice and a dash of salt.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Omit the feta cheese.