Even though I started cooking with Quinoa not too long ago, I have managed to use it in several ways since then with enjoyable results each time. It is very easy to creatively substitute it in place of rice, rawa or couscous. Like in this particular salad which I used to make with couscous before, but now I find that Quinoa works just as well too, and provides an added protein bonus.
Since summer is officially here, and the weather has so far been very summer like, there are more dinners on the patio than in the dining room now, and the wish to spend more time outside than in the kitchen. Main dish salads that focus on seasonal produce fit the bill perfectly for such occasions, and this is one that I happen to like a lot. The quinoa can also be cooked ahead of time, which means that tossing everything together takes only a few minutes. If not, the quinoa can be cooked and cooled in the time it takes to prep the other things.
Before everything is tossed together.
The grain - Quinoa can be substituted here with regular or whole wheat couscous, bulgar, or cracked wheat, or even small shaped pasta, each cooked according to its needs. Israeli couscous is wonderful in this salad. In fact, I also make a very similar salad which uses mixed greens instead of grains, but if one uses grains, it needs much less oil in the dressing.
Feta - Unlike the imposter I bought some time ago, I used Valbreso Sheep's Milk Feta this time, which is quite deliciously creamy and salty and adds a wonderful dimension to the salad. It does not however keep for more than 2 or 3 days once the packet is opened, unless you keep it in a simple brine made with water and salt. Leave the cheese out or use a vegan cheese for a vegan version of the salad.
Olives - I used some picholines and oil cured provencal olives for a combination of tart and slightly bitter tastes.
Other add-ins and changes - Like most salads, this one is also quite free form, and one can add or leave out any ingredients one likes, but this particular combination is a favorite because everything works together harmoniously, and since I like to keep track of my favorites on the blog, this makes it here.
Quinoa Salad with Mediterranean flavors
Serves: 3-6 people, depending on whether it is eaten as a main or side dish, and what else is being served alongside.
1 cup quinoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
about a cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, or one diced tomato
1 small cucumber
1/2 cup of cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup cubed feta cheese
a few slivers of sliced red onion
about a tablespoon of lemon juice
a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
a Tablespoon of chopped leafy herbs of choice
Rinse the quinoa in a fine-meshed sieve and let drain. Bring 2-1/2 cups of water to boil, add the salt, and the quinoa. Turn the heat to medium, place a lid on the pan, and cook for about 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it sit for another 5-10 minutes, and then let it cool down to room temperature.
In the meanwhile, peel, seed, and chop the cucumber. Pit and halve the olives. Slice the onion. Cube the feta cheese.
To make the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper.
Fluff the quinoa, and spread it out in a large wide bowl. Add half of the dressing, and toss with quinoa. Add the rest of the ingredients and remaining dressing, and toss just once or twice. Add the herbs on top, if using.