During the holiday season, like many people, I find myself eating more cookies and cake than I should. Much as I love sugar-filled desserts, no one has to tell me that leftover lemon bars are not breakfast, nor are biscotti a substitute for lunch. Luckily, of late, I’ve found myself craving healthy food, especially vegetables; it’s almost as if my body knows that it needs something healthy to balance out the sweets.
I do love chopped salad, kale salad, ratatouille, and roasted vegetables, but I’ve also been experimenting with quinoa-based vegetable dishes. Although many people consider quinoa a grain, it’s actually a seed and a very healthy one at that. Packed with protein, a good source for potassium and antioxidants, and gluten-free, quinoa is healthy as well as versatile. On its own, quinoa is rather tasteless, but it’s a great platform on which to build a dish.
This quinoa and vegetable salad is festive and tasty enough for a buffet, yet easy (and nutritious) enough for a brown bag lunch or a filling side dish for a weekday dinner.
There are two keys to this salad. The first is to dry roast the quinoa before cooking it. As I recently discovered, that simple step gives quinoa a delightful, nutty taste and adds body to the seed when it is cooked. (Many people consider quinoa a grain, but it’s really a seed.) The second key is the variety of colors and tastes. There is nothing like a rainbow of vegetables and the mix of salty olives and sweet cherry tomatoes to brighten up a dish.
Quinoa and Vegetable Salad
Servings – 6-8 Cost – $4-5
- 2 cups cooked quinoa (about ¾ cup dried)
- ¼ cup chopped olives (preferably Kalamata or other oil-cured olives)
- ¼ cup chopped cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup diced cucumber
- 1 teaspoon dried dill (or 3 teaspoons fresh dill, finely minced)
- ½ cup chopped feta cheese
- 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Pot (large and heavy enough to dry toast the quinoa in before you cook it)
- Meauring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Large spoon
- Fork or whisk
- Cutting board
- 2 bowls – 1 small (for dressing) and larger one for salad
- Cook quinoa using this method. Set aside and let it cool.
- Chop all the vegetables and the feta cheese into pieces of approximately the same size. There is no need to get compulsive, but the salad looks nicer this way.
- Mix the cooked quinoa and the vegetables. Then add the dill and mix. Add the chopped feta and mix again, this time gently so that the cheese cubes stay relatively intact.
- Prepare the dressing by mixing the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper together in the small bowl. Pour the dressing over the quinoa, vegetables, dill, and feta. Mix well but again, gently.
- The salad can be served immediately, but it tastes even better if you refrigerate it for a couple of hours to give the flavors time to meld together.
Happy holidays! And more importantly, happy and healthy eating year round. Here’s to putting quinoa and vegetable salad in the regular rotation:)