Saturday, June 21, 2008

Quinoa Salad with Mediterranean flavors

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.

Quinoa Salad with Mediterranean Flavors: layered before tossing
Before everything is tossed together.

Ingredient Notes

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.

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa
1/2 teaspoon salt

about a cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, or one diced tomato
1 small cucumber
15-20 olives
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

Method:

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.

Quinoa Salad with Mediterranean Flavors: tossed together

18 comments:

Devi Priya said...

I use quinoa to make upma. Nice recipe..

vb said...

Quinoa is really great. I love the combo of flavors here.

Divya Vikram said...

Havent tried QUinoa yet..love the addition of feta and grape tomatoes

Divya Vikram said...

Havent tried QUinoa yet..love the addition of feta and grape tomatoes

Mints! said...

ET, Nice recipe. But a suggestion, this recipe calls for Feta Cheese so its not a vegan recipe.

FoodieFriend said...

Wow! Looks good.....

Cynthia said...

I was recently gifted some quinoa by a fellow blogger friend and with your salad, I definitely have an idea what to make with it.

zobars said...

I will try this tomorrow itself since I have some quinoa that my husband bought when he had his healthy eating spree. Maybe we will get used to it and make more of it.

TheCooker said...

Such clean & simple flavours.
Oregano or rosemary seems like a natural addition to such a salad.
Any other herb that you particularly like here?

Miri said...

Sounds great! havent tried quinoa yet but the salad has some lovely colours!

evolvingtastes said...

Devi Priya, thanks. I make upma too, works rather well.

vb, thanks. Nice to see you here.

Divya, give it a try!

Mints, I know! The 'vegan' tag was mostly used to signify that this 'can be made vegan' with some easy changes, so now I have added a note to that effect. :-)

FoodieFriend, thanks.

Cynthia, if you like the individual ingredients, you will love them together!

zobars, this is definitely healthy, but also delicious. Let me know if you try it.

TheCooker, the clean flavors are what appeal to me too! For herbs, I like cilantro, alone or with some mint. Parsley is more in line with the mediterranean flavors, but you know how it is with parsley and me.:-) Sometimes a shake of the generic 'Italian seasoning' ain't too bad either.

Miri, thanks. You can replace the quinoa with the other suggestions I made.

And to Devi Priya, vb, foodiefriend, zobars, a welcome to my blog.

Laavanya said...

What a pretty looking salad that is! I've been meaning to get quinoa and give it a try...

Vaishali said...

Yum- I love quinoa. And it looks super-delicious with all those vibrant veggies.

evolvingtastes said...

Laavanya, I kept meaning to use quinoa for a long time too, and finally after I did, it was easy to incorporate it into everyday meals.

Vaishali, thanks! I love those colors too, if I say so myself.

Shantanu said...

Have never been a salad person until recently. And now that I want to try some, I notice it is exceedingly difficult to easily find salads in India; making it at home is not simple too, since sourcing some of this stuff can be difficult.

evolvingtastes said...

Shantanu, that's so true. Whenever I visit India for an extended period of time, I really miss having a good green salad at times. However I am sure that one can put together some really good salads together based on what is available there too. Some of our traditional koshimbirs, kosumbaris, raitas and such are a testament to it.

प्रिया said...

Coming from a family of salad-lovers, I was impressed by this recipe the moment I saw it. But I decided to comment only after trying it out. I made it as a side dish for a family dinner tonight, and everyone (including me, ofcourse) loved it! I made mine with couscous because I wanted it to be totally Mediterranean, and also added a few greens (just a few, because I didn't want their taste to be overpowering). Also, I used crumbled fat-free feta instead of cubes.

This salad looks and sounds so simple, but each ingredient has a distinct taste. We loved it! Kudos to this wonderful salad and its creator! :)

evolvingtastes said...

प्रिया, thrilled, thrilled, thrilled! Thanks for your feedback and high praise. Must've been quite a crowd-pleaser because of the couscous.

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