Make-Ahead Quinoa Salad With Cucumber, Tomato, and Herbs

An easy make-ahead salad with the flavors of tabbouleh, hearty enough to serve as a light meal. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

I've been on kind of a make-ahead kick recently, partly because we've been camping a lot and are always looking for easy, ready-to-serve meals, and partly because a good make-ahead meal makes life so much simpler. Rather than scrambling to put lunch or dinner on the table at the last minute, I get to do more important things like taking longer baths or having a slightly larger after-work glass of wine on the deck. Is there anyone in the world who'd prefer fewer baths and wine? Didn't think so.

This particular salad is loosely based on tabbouleh, the Middle Eastern salad of cooked bulgur wheat and herbs, often with tomatoes, seasoned with onions, lemon juice, and extra-virgin olive oil. In this case, I've used cooked quinoa in place of the wheat, and added some finely diced cucumbers to the mix.

The key to a successful make-ahead chopped salad is to deal with excess moisture before you pack it away. In this case, it means cooking the quinoa, rinsing it under cold water, and letting it drain very thoroughly. I also salt the tomatoes and cucumbers in advance. The salt draws out excess moisture through the process of osmosis. That moisture can then be drained. The resulting vegetables have a more concentrated flavor and texture and won't weep juices even if stored for a few nights.

For flavoring, I stick with the classics: chopped parsley and mint, along with some mild shallots and plenty of really good olive oil and black pepper.

Is it trendy to post a recipe that uses a so-called superfood like quinoa? I guess so. I try to ignore trends and I'm not super keen on bandwagon-jumping, but in this case, it's delicious enough to make an exception.