A Way to Mark Milestones: Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad

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This week I am doing something that I don’t do often enough: I am acknowledging the passing of time. It’s a slippery little thing, isn’t it? This careful art of moving forward, of keeping on, this business of involuntary and yet mandatory self progress. It is, all at once, so glorious and also so claustrophobic.

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad
Image: Courtesy of Leaf Parade

Lately there have been milestones — so many milestones. A handful of ways to mark and tally up my days, my achievements, the days and achievements of the people I love. These milestones are how I make sense of things, how I find context, locate myself on maps — big maps that I had never even seen or heard of until I set out to find my footing.

A year ago today, I started my current job, which I still somehow think of as “my new job,” a peculiarity I wonder when I will outgrow. But that’s not all — in just a month, I celebrate my two year anniversary with the city of Boston, a home that so many days feels like my very oldest friend, and so many other days still feels like the most distant of perfect strangers. And if time (and its stubborn ways of catching us all by surprise) weren’t busy enough lately, I noticed this morning, as I drew a big X through my calendar’s 17 June, that I am now closer to age 28 than I am to 27. That happened.

 

[Leaf Parade. Buffalo chicken quinoa salad.]

Sometimes I cannot decide whether I love or I hate this very quick and sneaky pace that time has chosen to keep without my consult. But then I realize that it’s not mine to love or to hate — it’s only mine to ride in on, to ride away on. I could look around myself and see all things that I have done and all the things I have not yet done, but I won’t do that. Instead I’ll just say to myself: You are here. And then I’ll be there for a while — an instant, really — until I’m somewhere else entirely — until I’m somewhere else I will also struggle to fathom. And then I’ll be there for awhile too. But I’ll never stop moving.

This past weekend, I took a trip to Connecticut to see my family. Every year around this time, my sister and her husband have a big BBQ at their house  to celebrate their wedding anniversary. This weekend’s BBQ marked their fourth year of marriage, and like all other milestones of late, I can’t believe it. It is the prerogative of my sister and my brother-in-law to anoint time’s passing with cheeseburgers, with Jello shots, and with sunburns. And this year, I contributed to their offering with this quinoa salad. Try it — I think you’ll like it. A lot. And if you don’t, it’s okay — don’t worry about wasting your time. Because that’s the thing about time — whether we do or do not do something with it, it passes regardless. We can spend it, but we can’t save it. So do. Do this — eat this.

——

Buffalo chicken quinoa salad. Slightly adapted from Half Baked Harvest.

For 6-12.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 1 pound grilled chicken, cooled and chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup broccoli ‘sprinkles’* (about one crown’s worth)
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup blue cheese or Gorgonzola

*To prepare what I’ve here called broccoli ‘sprinkles,” I carefully cut the outer layer of bright green grain-like pieces from the stalk. You could also cut your broccoli into florets, but I find the ‘sprinkles’ mix in better and don’t overwhelm the dish with a strong broccoli flavor. Set the stalks aside for later — they taste great trimmed and sauteed!

Method:

In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, grilled chicken, grated carrots, broccoli ‘sprinkles,’ and half of the scallions. Mix well. In a small bowl, whisk together the hot sauce and the olive oil, and then pour the sauce on top of the quinoa mixture. Mix well, add half of the cheese, and then mix well again. Top with the remaining scallions and cheese.

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