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Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. You’re going to cook the quinoa like pasta, so the exact quantity of water doesn’t matter—just make sure saucepan is at least half full. Add ½ cup quinoa and return to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook at a gentle boil or lively simmer, uncovered, until you start to see the curly tail separate from the individual grains, 12–15 minutes. Even though you’re cooking the quinoa uncovered, you’re going to use the lid later, so make sure it’s within reach.
Taste quinoa and make sure it’s tender. If it’s still a little crunchy, cook another 2 minutes, then taste again. Once tender, drain quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer–keep saucepan close at hand–and shake off as much excess water as possible. Turn off your stove.
Immediately dump drained quinoa back into saucepan. Return to stove and cover, placing 2 layers of paper towels underneath lid. The paper towel is there to absorb liquid as quinoa continues to steam, making it fluffy instead of wet and soggy. Let sit on stove (make sure the burner is turned off) while you assemble the rest of the salad.
Hold head of broccoli by the stalk in your non-dominant hand over a large bowl. Rotating the stalk as you work, use your knife to shave off thin layers from the floret end, holding knife almost parallel to the buds and taking off just the tiny buds at first. Then use knife to shave off thin layers of the florets until you reach the thicker stems.→ More intel on this revolutionary broccoli chopping technique
You’re going to trim and chop up the stalk because it’s (arguably) the most delicious part of the broccoli. Start by snapping off any remaining stems sticking out of the stalk. Using a vegetable peeler, remove fibrous outer layer of stalk until you get to the tender light green interior (you may have to go around with peeler several times). Chop up stalk and add to bowl.
Toss in 6 dates, 3 scallions, 4 oz. cheese, ⅓ cup almonds, 1½ tsp. red pepper, and quinoa. Add several generous pinches of salt and toss to combine.→ Want to customize your quinoa salad? Just follow this simple formula
Add ¼ cup oil and 3 Tbsp. lemon juice and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt, if needed.
Cover salad with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface. Let salad sit at least 30 minutes before serving (or transfer salad to an airtight container and chill up to 3 days). This allows the dates to soften and other ingredients to soak up all the lemon juice, oil, and seasonings.
Before serving, toss salad together, then taste and season with more salt and lemon juice, if needed.