Lemon Quinoa Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Persian Feta

bowl2It’s just passed 02:00am. Instead of sleeping, I’m listening to the sound of rain beating on the bedroom window; steady, soft, dull and rhythmic. A lone bus drifts down the highway, groaning under the weight of tired passengers and reinforced steel. I feel equally heavy. Strained under the weight of contemplation, emotion and unreasonable alertness.

I fidget, shifting my weight from right to left. Cold fingers tap incessantly on black keys, futilely aiming to translate muddled thoughts.

Type. Erase. Type…. rephrase. Begin again.

Progress. Fail. Darn it.

tommontBy now, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing such a bleak introduction to a vibrant, colourful recipe post. I’m not really sure; my brain has many things to say, but my heart and hands aren’t adequate translators. Let me start with a small recollection of recent events.

Earlier this evening, Aaron and I visited two beautiful friends of ours, Brett and Kendall Stanford. I’m being completely honest in saying that Brett and Kendall are some of the best people you could ever meet: warm, gentle, kind, strong, ridiculously funny, faithful and wise. They’re both generous and loving in every sense of the word.

tomboxl

By day, Brett works as a physiotherapist in a private clinic. He donates his weekends and extra time to Perth-based basketball trick shot group How Ridiculous, which you may have heard of in relation to their Guinness World Record for highest basketball shot (66.89m / 219 ft 5 in). Since 2009, these four Perth guys have been making basketball trick shot videos as a source of both entertainment and sponsorship for the not-for-profit organization Compassion. They’ve been featured by media worldwide and have over 72K subscribers on YouTube. Everything they do radiates genuine passion for the alleviation of poverty, worldwide.

On the other hand, Kendall is one of the sweetest, kindest nurses that you could ever wish to meet. She has a generous heart for people and has been a loyal friend to Aaron and I for many years now. She sung at our wedding at short notice, standing in the boiling sun for sound checks with a bad sound system and persistent flies (nevertheless, she was wonderful, as was Chris, who sung and played with her). Aaron and I attended the Stanford wedding around one month later, hand-in-hand as husband and wife, with smiles from ear to ear. It was beautiful, memorable… uniquely Brett and Kendall.

avoLast Sunday, Aaron and I read a message from Brett that has since permanently burned into the back of our minds. Around four weeks ago, Kendall began experiencing increased fatigue, headaches and facial swelling. After many investigations, she was diagnosed with Primary Mediastinal B-Cell Lymphoma, a rare form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Yes, cancer. It’s scary. I’m angry, sad and frustrated all at the same time. Kendall’s diagnosis brings back memories of my beautiful mother suffering through breast cancer surgery, then months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy a few years ago. It’s a fate that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, particularly not a woman of 24 years.

Kendall has now commenced chemotherapy, and the rest of us have commenced a routine of prayer, more prayer and practical help as required. A few days ago, Kendall sent me a message to ask if I could bring them a bite of dinner on Thursday night. I jumped at the chance, ecstatic to be able to do something tangibly ‘helpful’. I brought over this salad (below) with warm bread, dips and slow-cooked lamb. I hoped that the food would be palatable, nourishing and satisfying, but I still felt a little bit… well, ineffective. Kendall jokingly remarked in a text, ‘…we may want to be on your blog too’. So, after some thought, that’s exactly what I did.

fetacloseAs Kendall tells her story much better than I can, I’d encourage you to read her beautifully honest words over at Kendall Stanford: As I Battle Lymphoma. She’s planning to write updates as she progresses through the next few months, both as a personal means of catharsis and for information sharing. As for me, I’ve signed up for the ‘food roster’ (actually, I requested that she create a food roster!) so you may see a few more Kendall updates on here as time passes, if it feels right to do so.

One last request: if you’re a Christian as we are, I’d like to humbly ask you to please pray alongside us, specifically for Kendall, Brett, their families and friends, the treating doctors involved in her care… and otherwise as you feel led. We’re praying for victory, healing and renewed strength. Thanks beautiful friends. I appreciate every one of you.

quinoasalad2

This salad is simple, nourishing and comforting, speckled with lemon zest and fresh garden herbs. If you don’t have quinoa, you can easily substitute it for brown rice, bulgur (burghul) or cous cous.

Lemon Quinoa Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Goats Cheese

Serves 2 as a light meal, 4 as a side dish

  • 1 cup dry organic white Royal Quinoa
  • 200g punnet mixed cherry tomatoes, washed
  • 1/2 red capsicum, stem and seeds removed
  • 1 avocado, seed and peel removed
  • 1 small Lebanese cucumber (substitute half a telegraph cucumber)
  • 1/2 small Spanish onion, outer peel removed
  • 1 handful washed Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 handful washed coriander leaves (retain stalk)
  • 1 large unwaxed lemon, zest and juice
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup organic Persian marinated feta
  • extra virgin olive oil

Place the quinoa into a fine mesh strainer, then rinse it thoroughly under fresh cold water. Swish the quinoa around with your hands, rubbing slightly to remove the bitter outer coating (called saponin, which can contribute a slightly bitter or soapy flavour).

Drain well, then place into a medium saucepan with two cups of fresh cold water. Replace the lid and bring the mixture to a rolling boil; immediately lower the heat to a gentle simmer, then cook with the lid on for 10-15 minutes.

lemonycookedWhen your quinoa is cooked, the liquid should be fully absorbed and the germ should slightly curl away from the quinoa seeds. Allow to stand for five minutes (covered) then add in a good splash of extra virgin olive oil, some salt and the fresh lemon zest. Mix well, then set aside to cool.

caponionChop your cherry tomatoes, capsicum, Spanish onion, cucumber and avocado into small (0.5 x 0.5cm) dice. Place into a medium bowl, then squeeze over the juice of half a lemon. Finely chop the herbs and add them to the rest of the raw ingredients with the lemony quinoa, crumbled Persian feta, a good drizzle of olive oil and the rest of the lemon juice. Mix well and season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

finmontServe this salad on its own or topped with warm chickpeas, freshly grilled chicken, fish or a handful of toasted pepitas. It’s also great as part of a Summer barbecue spread with a selection of salads, meat and some cold beer.

quinoasaladNotes:

  • Quinoa (‘keen wah’) is one of the most nutrient rich grains around. It’s an excellent source of iron (needed to transport oxygen around the body), B vitamins for energy, calcium and magnesium (for healthy nervous system function) and vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant).
  • For more information on quinoa (including basic cooking ratios) see my previous post, Quinoa Salad with Preserved Lemon, Pomegranate and Mint.
  • The Australian website taste.com.au has a nice little collection of quinoa recipes here. Beautiful, versatile nutrition. Love it.
  • This salad can be easily veganised by omitting the Persian feta. I’d recommend additions of toasted pepitas, chickpeas or other nuts for added substance, texture and flavour.

root

104 responses

  1. Such moving words. I hope Kendall gets better! My thoughts and prayers go to her.
    As to the salad, it looks wonderful! I love quinoa salads, and every single ingredient you’ve put in it. No wonder it was appreciated!

    • Aw, Darya! Thanks so much my lovely friend. I appreciate the kind words and the prayers. I adore quinoa also, it’s one of my favorite grains, both from a nutritional and flavour point of view xx

    • Thanks so much Jen. I feel exactly the same. It’s a way of expressing love when you don’t know what words to say. I think it’s become one of my ‘love languages’ over the years, both in a practical and emotional sense. I appreciate your thoughts lovely xx

  2. Oh Laura, such hard times. I know how you’re feeling, hodgkin and non hodgkin are common words in my family. It’s good to see you can help in keeping Kendall nourished and loved. I’ll spread the word around to praying friends and groups, a big thing in this country, more now with the pope and all. Be strong and know that your friends are in our thoughts.

    • Oh Paula, thanks so much for your kind words and love. I’m so sorry to hear that your family are so familiar with this horrible disease… I’ll be sending prayers back your way also! I know that Brett and Kendall will appreciate the prayers and thoughts more than words can say. They’re a huge inspiration in faith to me and Aaron, and it’s so heartening to know that we can support one another as a community of Christian brothers and sisters. Sending you hugs and love, thanks so much beautiful xx

  3. What a delicious and nourishing salad and your dear friend Kendall sounds like a strong woman and a great friend. I will keep Kendall, her family and team of physicians in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. I hope very much that your friend Kendall responds well to her treatment and soon finds her way back to good health. She’s so fortunate to have such generous, loving family and friends like yourself Laura, to help in any way possible. My thoughts go out to her.

    • Thank you so much lovely. Brett and Kendall are definitely well loved… it’s a tribute to them as people and how they’ve invested into everyone else’s lives over the years. I appreciate your kind and thoughtful words xxx

  5. Stay strong, both of you, and keep focusing on the abundant beauty around you, like those gorgeous fresh tomatoes. It’s a terrible hand that life has dealt, but I think you have the right idea of pairing such sad words with this inspiring recipe. May the uplifting parts soon outweigh the ugly.

    • Thanks Hannah. Every words you’ve written is hugely appreciated. You’re right, there’s beauty in everything, however big or small. I know that Kendall is fighting to keep her outlook positive and strong at present. Amen to your sentiment xxx

  6. Wow. That is a lot to go through, Laura. Best wishes to Kendall. I can relate to your personal experience that you shared, BTW. Very sad words and feelings, in stark contrast to the high-key, upbeat food images that grace your post. Sorry to hear.

    • Hi Stefano. Thanks so much for your kind words. I am sorry that you can relate to what I’m experiencing. Grateful, but sorry all the same! It’d be nice if life wasn’t so unjust and painful… but then again, the complex an unpredictable nature of life is what makes it beautiful sometimes, and adversity brings us closer together. I’ve personally experienced that many times over :) Thanks again.

      • “The complex and unpredictable nature of life is what makes it beautiful sometimes”: so very eloquently put, Laura. So very true. :-)

  7. I’m really sorry to hear about your friend Kendall. It is always sad when bad things happen to good people but I hope she will find her way back to health.

    A moving and thoughtful post and a lovely recipe dear Laura.

    • Hello lovely Azita. Thanks so much for the kind words. I know what you mean, life is in no way fair or just. We just need to do our best and keep moving forwards xx

  8. Thank you for sharing this and the link to Kendall’s blog. In the end it might not be the food that comforts but rather the love and prayers that went into it.
    Regarding your post, the juxtaposition of the hopeful, bright colours of the food with your tired mind and heart is incredible and highlights what life is like – a constant contrast between joy and sorrow, a balancing of all that life gives us. I’m so sad to hear about your friends and will pray for them and all those who are walking alongside them in this.

    • Jon, thanks so much for your kind and thoughtful comment. You are exactly right, life is infinitely complex and painful but wonderful and worthwhile at the same time. It’s strange that sometimes joy and sorrow can coexist… mind and heart conflict in the strangest of ways. Kendall and Brett are some of the most wonderful people I know. If anyone can get through this undefeated, it’s them :) Thanks for your thoughts and prayers. We all appreciate it hugely.

    • Hello lovely. I agree, they were beautiful organic tomatoes from our local market. Still spattered with water from the garden! Thanks for your kind words about Kendall. She’s beautiful inside and out. It seems weird to keep writing about her and cancer in the same sentence. I’m praying that she’s going to recover, stronger than ever before :) Thanks again xx

  9. So sorry, Laura, to read that your friend is facing such a hard fight.I’ve a friend who faced a similar battle 6 years ago, a very rare form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He’s alive and well today, I’m very happy to say. Treatment today for lymphoma has vastly improved over what it was a decade ago. I hope and pray Kendal is another success story.

    • John, thanks so much for the encouragement! It’s so, so good to hear that your friend has recovered! Kendall also has a rare form of non-Hodgkins, I’m only just starting to understand its exact classification as far as cancer goes. It’s encouraging to know that so many people have successfully pulled through their treatment to live healthy, normal lives again. Thanks for your prayers and thoughts, they are so appreciated.

  10. Laura, my thoughts go out to Kendall and her family and friends. I hope the treatment is effective and she returns to health soon. Your salad does indeed look comforting and tempting, and slow cooked lamb sound lovely too. All the best.

    • Aw, thank you so much Loretta. You are so right… I definitely feel like food is one of my ‘love languages’. It’s something that I invest my heart and energy into on a daily basis, in an effort to convey generosity, love and nourishment to those who are close to me. I appreciate your kind words. Hugs xx

  11. Oh Laura, my heart broke a little reading this post…What a lovely testament to your dear friends Kendall and Brett…I can understand how finding the right words at a time like this would be incredibly difficult, but you did so beautifully. My thoughts are with Kendall, Brett and their families. I am sure they find some small solace in this difficult time knowing that they have amazing friends like you to support them through it all. xoxo

    • Thanks beautiful Lindsay. It’s hard, as anything I can contribute is only a tiny patch upon the pain, fear and heartache that Brett and Kendall are experiencing. It means a lot to us though, knowing that people are praying and sending positive thoughts from around the world. Thanks again, hugs xx

  12. I’m so sorry to hear about your friends – they’re lucky to have you in their corner, though, and you write beautifully even about such a sad subject (and I’m sure it must indeed have been very difficult to write). Your salad looks gorgeous and I’m sure it was appreciated.

    • Thank you so much Rachel. Your words and thoughts mean so much. The food was definitely appreciated, I just wish I could have done more. I’m just going to pray my little heart out over the next few months. Kendall is one of the strongest people I know xx

  13. Cancer is such a bitch. Why does it always seem to attack the most ‘undeserving’ (obviously no one deserves it), lovely, kind, healthy, active people? I hate it. Your friend is lucky to have you on hand to help her through a horrible time, one bite at a time. Beat it with quinoa!

    • I definitely agree! It’s a cruel monster of a disease and no one should have to suffer in the way that cancer patients do. I wish I could beat it with a stick (dreaming that there was some kind of cancer ‘mother ship’ that I could smash) but quinoa will have to do for now. Food and nourishment in general is something that I do well, so I’m investing time and energy into it at present. Thanks so much for your lovely words xx

  14. You have such an ability to express yourself and your heavy heartedness Laura. Reading your post today really brought a sense of heaviness to me too. I too have had to see my mom going through these treatments and it is something I will never get over. I will be praying for your dear friend Kendall and her husband Brett.

    • Thank you so much Seana. I’m sorry that it brought back difficult memories for you too. It’s horrible, having to watch those we love endure such pain. It brings feelings of helplessness and frustration. I never felt like I could do anything tangible to relieve my mother’s pain and now I feel equally helpless seeing Kendall and Brett in this position. Is your mother healthy and well now? I hope so. My mother is the strongest woman I know, and it’s wonderful to see her living life again now. I wish the same outcome for Kendall. Thanks for your love and prayers xxx

  15. Laura I’m so sorry to hear about your friends diagnosis. A truly hard path to travel.
    I know being a part of a food roster seems like a tiny thing but, it really is an important part of her recovering (also making sure her husband is well fed so he in turn can support her.)
    Cancer…never and easy thing.
    Sending lots of healing wishes west. xxx

    • Thanks Brydie. I appreciate everything you’ve written, so much. You’re right, being part of a food roster just seems insignificant at the moment. It’s nice to have something that I can do though; something that I can invest energy and love into. Thanks again beautiful xx

    • Thank you so much Colleen. It means a lot to know that people are supporting Kendall (particularly as she’s someone you don’t know! It means so much). Thanks for the kind words about the salad, too xx

    • Hi John, thanks so much for sharing your mom’s experience. It’s really, really encouraging to know that so many people have had good outcomes facing this horrible disease. It’s definitely an endurance though, seeing anyone go through chemo (never mind actually experiencing chemo!!!). I keep wishing that an alternative, less toxic treatment could be created for cancer. Something less poisonous to the body’s healthy cells. Maybe in the next lifetime :( Thanks so much for your kind words.

  16. Oh, Laura, what a beautiful written, honest, heartfelt post. Thank you so much for sharing this time with us. I am so sorry to hear about your friend — Kendall and you all are in my thoughts and heart and prayers.

    The most powerful medicine of all sometimes is the love of others, especially the ones’ nearest and dearest to us. You are all so luck to have each other, especially during this very scary, trying time. I read something from Maya Angelou recently that I want to share with you:

    “Love heals. Heals and liberates. I use the word “love,” not meaning sentimentality, but a condition so strong that it may be that which holds the stars in their heavenly positions and that which causes the blood to flow orderly in our veins.”

    That kind of love sounds like the love you all have for one another, and that kind of love can move mountains.

    **warm, warm hug**

    Wishing you much strength and healing, dear Laura, and much love,

    Christina

    • That is such a beautiful quote Christina. Thanks for taking the time to share it with me, Kendall and Brett. Kendy is definitely very well loved by all of us. It doesn’t seem to put any sort of patch on the pain she is experiencing but I do hope that it helps her, knowing that we’re all standing by her in prayer and love. Huge hugs back to you lovely. Hope that your and Christopher’s move went well and that you’ve settled in ok. Love xx

  17. Oh, sweetie, I’m so sorry. What a horrid thing to have to write about and I’m desperately hoping that over time things get better.

    Whatever you do, you mustn’t feel like what you offer them isn’t enough: I have no doubt that Brett and Kendall will appreciate anything you give, and they will understand how much love comes with it.

    And of course I’ll send prayers your way,

    Big hugs and smiles :D

    PS – 2am posts won’t help you a jot. Get some sleep and I’m sure the day will be brighter x

    • Aw Trixie, you are so right. Haha… I had 3.5hrs sleep that night. Completely wrecked the next day (I’ve tried to make up for it since though!). I appreciate your kind words, prayers and thoughts. I know that Kendall and Brett will too. From Kendall’s point of view, prayers for strength are most important though so whenever I feel a bit at a loss, I send some up! Hugs back to you beautiful. I appreciate you heaps xx

    • Hi Rachel. Thanks so much for taking the time to send through a comment. I definitely agree that food can be medicine to the soul/mind as well as the body. Sometimes when I’m feeling unwell, all I want is a bowl of hot soup or a cup of tea! In Kendall’s situation it’s definitely more complex but I do know that food is part of healing. So is friendship, hope and prayer. I appreciate you joining with us in this difficult time and I know that Kendall and Brett will too xx

  18. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend, Laura! Life really isn’t fair sometimes. Hopefully this will be a moment she can look back at, and be happy that she got through.

    I love the flavors in this salad, what a great combination!

    • Thanks Yvonne, I am definitely hoping that you are right. I appreciate your kind words and I am praying for Kendall to receive strength, resilience and health as the days go by xx

  19. So sorry to read this, Laura – I wish you and your friends all the very best. And it’s just wonderful that you prepared such a healthy and beautiful dish for them – cooking food for beloved ones is always a wonderful way to give love, and even more in such a situation.

  20. Hey, Laura! I am so soryy to hear about your friend & her or his battle against cancer. I will pray for your friend,;;;xxx
    Your quinoa salad is a really tasty & a refreshing one,…I love quinoa salads as easy & tasty like this one. I love to savour it alongside grilled fish! Hugs to you too! ;) xxx

    • Hello Sara, thanks so much for the kind words. I appreciate your thoughts for Kendall. The quinoa salad was delicious… it’s such a versatile, nutritious grain, and if you enjoy lemon, feta and herbs I’d encourage you to try this recipe. Nice to find your lovely blog too xx

  21. Laura, my heart goes out to you. Such a beautiful post. All my love, support and a big cyber hug to you and your friend. 
    A girlfriend of mine battled breast cancer a couple of years ago and went through debilitating bouts of chemo. I’m so sorry you experienced that with your mum. Delivering food is the perfect tangible way to offer support. I’m sure your friend appreciated this beautiful nourishing meal. Food made with love always tastes better. xxx

    • Aw, Saskia… thanks so much. It makes me angry that so many beautiful people have to go through the horror of cancer plus chemo and/or radiotherapy. I am so, so happy and relived to say that my mother is better now but it was torture watching her endure her treatment. I hate seeing Kendall go through the same thing :( I hope that your friend is okay now? Sending you love back, and thanks again for the kind words and support for Kendall and Brett xxx

  22. Laura – in all this sadness is the beauty of love and friendship… I can only imagine what a source of strength and comfort you and Aaron are for Kendall and Brett at this difficult time. Stay strong. Hugs from afar to all…

    • Hello David, thanks so much for your lovely words. I still feel a bit helpless and ineffective in the midst of this but it means a lot to do anything (however small) for Brett and Kendall at the moment. I know that they’re appreciating everyone’s kind words, thoughts and prayers. Hugs back to you and Mark. Your friendship and fellow foodie inspiration means a lot.

    • Thanks so much for the kind words. Haha, yes I add lemon zest to pretty much all of my salads (well, most of them anyway) and it adds such a fresh, vibrant flavour that can’t be achieved via lemon juice alone. I appreciate your thoughts re Kendall. We’re praying hard xx

    • Hello Tina! Thanks for visiting the Mess, it’s always wonderful to discover likeminded foodies out there in the blogosphere :) I appreciate your kind words re Kendall very much. I am sure that she and Brett will too x

  23. Wow, thanks for sharing that story. My thoughts and prayers will be with your friends- that is so awful….on a positive note, the salad looks delicious. I am sure they appreciated that.

  24. I am teary eyed reading this Laura. Your friend will be in my prayers. The salad looks beautiful like all your other recipes and all the ingredients are my current favourites!

  25. Pingback: Flourless Orange and Cacao Cake with Spiced Orange Syrup (with Hippy Vic) « Laura's Mess

  26. I love quinoa and I’m always looking for new recipes. Definitely bookmarking this recipe! I fully intend to make it in the morning as I have nearly all the ingredients on had. Yum!

    • Hello there lovely! Thanks for the comment! I am a huge lover of quinoa also… I eat it a few times a week. This combination definitely worked well… very little effort, very tasty result. Thanks so much for the feedback :)

    • Hello lovely. Thanks for taking the time to write. Yep, I’ve been hugely blessed with beautiful friends and family in this journey we call life! Kendall is one of those beautiful rare gems who lights up the room with her beaming smile. She’s doing ok. It’s horrible but she’s one of the strongest women I know. Thanks so much for your prayers xx

  27. such a beautiful and moving post!!
    i will be praying for Kendell and all of you in this tough time.

    this salad looks every bit my type of salad! delicious! :)
    i’m definitely book marking this one to make!

    best of luck to you all for the hard times ahead!

    xxo

    • Thanks beautiful. It was a hard post to write actually. I wish it didn’t need to be written at all :( Thanks so much for your prayers and wishes though Bec. It means a lot to all of us xx

    • Aw, thank you beautiful. Your kind words, thoughts and prayers mean a lot. Kendall is a beautiful, strong soul and I know she’ll get through. It’s just horrible that she has to endure the process. Hugs xx

  28. I also want to say that I’m so sorry to hear about your friend’s cancer. That’s rough news. I’ll keep Kendall in my prayers. Better yet, I’ll ask my husband to pray because he actually does pray. Celeste :)

    • Thanks so much Celeste. I appreciate it and I know that Kendall and Brett will too. She’s struggling a bit at the moment, very understandably. She’s strong though, so I know that she’ll get through. Thanks to your husband for the prayers too xxx

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