Greek Quinoa Salad: I’m a lunch packer

I remember, as a young child, my father coming home and consuming the delicious Korean food that my mom had prepared for him with such relish and delight.  He’d sit down, thoroughly savor all the delicacies in front of him, and look happy and satisfied.  “The hospital cafeteria just tastes bad” he’d say, when I asked him why he was so crazy about my mom’s cooking.  I remember thinking often, why he didn’t just have my mom pack a lunch the way that my mom packed mine.  As I grew older, and I watched my mom working diligently to have a good meal for my dad every single evening, I continued to wonder why she just didn’t pack him a lunch of Korean food, instead of having him eat something he clearly didn’t enjoy.
Turns out, it was the stinky factor.  Korean food reheated can be pretty pungent and stinky.  My father at the time was trying hard to fit in, and not be the stinky “ethnic” person at the hospital.  He didn’t want his patients to think he smelled like garlic or something foreign and was conscious of the perceptions the patients would have of him should he smell like something.  During the day, he chose not to eat the foods that he loved in order to make himself more approachable to his patients.  This was, of course, 30 years ago, in a world that was probably not as familiar with Korean food as it is now.
In recent years, I’ve seen not-so-funny and amusing articles and how much people dislike “stinky ethnic foods” in the office and how the proliferation of different cuisines in the office space isn’t pleasant.  I’m going to confess that Husband and I are probably the cause of these articles because I pack him a lunch nearly daily.  I pack him pungent Korean food, strong kimchi, fish, all for the purpose of feeding Husband the thing he loves to eat the most, as my father did not get this privilege.  Occasionally I worry, wondering if the people in the next space over are inwardly plugging their noses from the scent of reheated kimchi fried rice or kimchi stew, but Husband tells me not to worry.
At his company party in December, I had the opportunity to meet many of his coworkers, and the comment I heard repeatedly was, “His lunch just smells so good!” and “When he heats his lunch, I’m wondering what he got for lunch today!”  In contrast to many of the people in his office, Husband doesn’t eat or order out; he eats whatever I send him.  He happily goes to the kitchen, heats up his home packed meal, and eats whatever I’ve packed him, which is generally a mix of the meal he had for dinner the night before.  It seems that his office space is open to the crazy smells and maybe, just a little jealous of what they don’t get to eat.  
If you’ve never packed your loved one a lunch to eat in the office, I’ll challenge you to try it once.  If your spouse is less courageous than mine about eating smelly foods, I’ll have you try this recipe. In contrast to the more pungent food Husband enjoys for lunch, this quinoa salad is another one of his favorites.  I’ll make it once in the week, and because it chills and holds really well, he can have it twice during the week at lunch.  It doesn’t need to be reheated (cutting down on the possibility of people complaining about smell) and it’s actually satisfying and delicious.  It is one of Husband’s favorite lunches and he keeps asking for it again and again.  Make it the day before, put it into a nice container, and send him or her to work with it and he or she will be the envy of all who sit next to him.

Greek Quinoa Salad
Serves 4 to 6

1 cup quinoa (I like the varieties available at Trader Joe’s, which include red, white, and tricolor.)
2 cups water
½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oi
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup diced cucumbers
1 cup diced bell peppers (red, orange or yellow)
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
¾ cup pitted kalamata olives, cut in half
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese

Using a fine mesh strainer, rinse 1 cup of quinoa, kind of scrubbing the grains together.  This removes a lot of the bitterness associated with quinoa.  Drain.  In a large heavy saucepan add quinoa, water, and salt.  Bring to a boil uncovered, and once boiling, cover, and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook for 15 minutes until all water is absorbed.  Check to see that quinoa is translucent and the germ is visible (the fine line).  Remove from heat and remove quinoa from pot to cool.  Set aside.

While quinoa cools, whisk together vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.  In a large bowl, add cooled quinoa, dressing,cucumbers, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and olive.  Toss together until all is well incorporated and then add feta.  Fold gently.  Chill.

Printable recipe
All packed up, ready to go.

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