Add the water to a pot and bring to a boil. Add the salt and quinoa. Stir, cover, and lower the heat until it’s at a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, covered. Uncover, top with the corn and tomatoes, then re-cover. Cook another another 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to steam for 5 more minutes.
While the quinoa is cooking, combine the lemon zest, scallions, feta, and olive oil in a big bowl.
After the quinoa has steamed for 5 minutes, check how it’s doing. The water should have absorbed. If it hasn’t, cover and cook on the lowest-possible heat for another few minutes until it has.
When it’s done, fluff the pilaf and transfer to the waiting bowl with the remaining ingredients. Add the sunflower seeds and mint on top and toss. Season with salt and red pepper flakes to taste.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.