Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

It’s that time of year again, where I start craving bright, cheerful vegetables that won’t be available in any degree of abundance for at least another three months. Generally, I try to eat more-or-less seasonally; out-of-season produce tends to be horrendously expensive, particularly if you’re buying organic, and I find that I appreciate the bounty of summer more when I’ve been deprived for a while (I think all Minnesotans must believe this on some level, with regards to life in general – otherwise, no one would stick around for more than one winter). Plus, it’s hard for produce grown in Mexico and trucked in to compete with the fresh, picked-ripe fare available at a farmers market in the summer, which makes eating out-of-season produce in the dead of winter a depressing reminder of just how long it’s going to be before you get to eat a real tomato again. Sigh.

But every so often, I just can’t take the monotony of winter any longer, and go running off to my co-op for an armload of summer veggies from California and Mexico. This salad is one of my favorite things to make with my purchases – it’s delicious, filling, and makes a complete meal on its own. It can be served warmish or at room-temperature, if you’re not in the mood for a cold salad (though it is also excellent cold). Quinoa is pretty expensive for a grain – the price has been climbing steadily for the past several years, and it currently comes in at $4.89/lb. in the bulk section at my co-op (yikes) – but I like it enough that I splurge on it every so often. (If you’re on a tighter budget than I am currently, you could substitute rice, couscous, or probably even barley, all of which are cheaper options.) Cherry or plum tomatoes are a must, if you don’t have any fresh, picked-ripe regular tomatoes on hand – they’re basically the only types of grocery store tomatoes that are worth a damn at any time of the year, and will come the closest to approximating that peak-of-summer tomato taste that is so hard to find outside of the summer months.

This recipe was roughly adapted from the one here.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (about 1lb.) quinoa
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth, or water + bullion cubes, or whatever
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ bunch parsley, leaves and upper stems, minced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (or, if it's summer, 2 picked-ripe roma tomatoes, chopped)
  • ½ cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • ¼lb. feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice (freshly-squeezed is the most flavorful - you'll need one large, squishy lemon)
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt to taste, particularly if your broth isn't salted
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Note

As with all grain and legume salads, you'll need to plan ahead if you want to serve this cold - cook the quinoa at least four hours in advance of serving to give it time to cool off in the refrigerator. (However, this salad tastes great served warmish or at room temperature as well, particularly at times of year when it's not sweltering hot outside.)

Directions

1. Before cooking the quinoa, rinse it in a fine mesh strainer under running water for about a minute; this removes the outer coating that can cause a bitter taste.
2. Combine the quinoa and vegetable/chicken broth in a pot and bring to a boil on the stove. Reduce the heat and simmer the quinoa for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let the quinoa rest (and absorb the remaining liquid) for an additional 15 minutes. Move to a bowl, and put in the refrigerator to cool (you'll need at least four hours if you want it to be cold).
3. Shortly before serving, prepare the vegetables - finely chop the red onion and bell pepper, mince the garlic and parsley, and halve the cherry tomatoes. Chop the olives and crumble the feta cheese as well.
4. Combine the cooked quinoa, chopped veggies/herbs, olives, and feta in a bowl. Pour in the vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil, and stir well to combine. Taste for salt, and add as needed, along with round black pepper to taste. Serve.

 

Cost of core ingredients: All primarily organic and purchased at my food co-op.

  • ~1 lb. quinoa: ~$4.89 (ugh, so pricey!)
  • 1 small onion: ~$0.80
  • 1 red bell pepper: $2.20 (sadly, the peppers in my freezer won’t do for a raw dish – they’re too floppy and sad when thawed)
  • ½ bunch parsley: $1
  • ½ container cherry tomatoes (the rest will go in a different salad): $2
  • ~¼ lb. feta cheese: $1.61
  • ~⅓ jar of kalamata olives: $2.33
  • 1 large lemon: $0.67

Total cost for 6 servings: $15.50 + the cost of small amounts of vegetable bullion cubes, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and pepper.

Bon Appétit!

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