Mediterranean Quinoa Salad Recipe
Posted on April 5, 2014 by Amy Krasner
Until about 2 years ago, most of you probably didn’t know about this magical “grain” called Quinoa. (Neither did I!) This light and nutty ingredient can now be found in many local restaurants and health-food cookbooks. In the nutrition world, quinoa has been recognized for it’s unique nutrient composition. Compared to other grains, quinoa has a higher protein content and is higher in healthy fats. It also contains phytonutrients which boosts its anti-oxidant qualities.* While it is not permitted on a Paleo diet, it is still considered a gluten-free grain that has a high nutrient profile.
The truth is that quinoa can either be really boring or it can be really flavorful. It all depends on how you cook it. In this post, I will share with you one of my favorite quinoa recipes and a few key cooking techniques to use in order to boost the flavor of any quinoa dish.
In this flavorful quinoa salad recipe I used red quinoa. I never used to use red quinoa because I was more familiar with yellow quinoa. The difference between the two kinds of quinoa is that the red quinoa is a little more firm and springy, whereas the yellow quinoa is a little softer and can become more mushy. Also, red quinoa can take a couple of more minutes to cook than yellow quinoa. They are both good choices and I like to switch it up between the two to keep things interesting.
The first cooking technique that I’d like to share with you is to “rinse” your quinoa in a fine mesh strainer before you cook it. This rinsing process will help to remove the bitter outer layer that is found on the quinoa. The bitter layer is due to “saponins” or a layer of “phytic acid” that actually makes it harder to break-down and digest the quinoa. (I also recommend taking the extra step to “soak” your quinoa for at 1-6 hours to make it easier to digest and to increase the nutrient absorption. Then you can rinse it before you cook it. This step is optional).
The second recommendation to boost the flavor of your quinoa is to use organic vegetable stock instead of water for your cooking liquid. If you are using quinoa as part of your breakfast, such as my quinoa breakfast porridge recipe, then I recommend to use water. However, if you are using quinoa as a side dish or as part of a salad, I recommend to use vegetable stock for added flavor.
Last but not least, I suggest to use the natural flavors that nature has to offer, herbs, spices and fresh vegetables to enhance the flavors of your dish. In this quinoa recipe I used green onion, red onion, salt and pepper.
Thanks to some beautiful photography by my friends Kate & Mike from Blue Horizon Studios, this beautiful salad has come to life. I find cooking to be way more fun, exciting, and enjoyable when friends are in the kitchen with me. It is always great to partner with Kate & Mike for our foodie projects. Thanks guys!
* Source: http://www.whfoods.com
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water or vegetable stock (low sodium & organic)
- 1 large cucumber, medium dice
- 2 roma tomatoes, medium dice
- ½ medium red onion, small dice
- 1 red bell pepper, medium dice (optional)
- ½ cup olives, chopped (optional)
- 2 oz crumbled organic feta cheese
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped
- ½ bunch mint, chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt (or more to taste)
- black pepper
- Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer until water runs clear.
- Add quinoa and water (or stock) to a medium size sauce pan. Bring to a boil then cover and let simmer for 20-25 minutes. You will know quinoa is ready the tiny seeds are all unraveled into spirals.
- While quinoa is cooking chop tomatoes, cucumber, onion, parsley and mint. Combine chopped ingredients into a large bowl, set aside.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. When quinoa is cooked, spread out evenly on the baking sheet and fluff with a fork. Let cool for 5-10 minutes.
- Combine the quinoa with the vegetables. Add feta cheese, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Note: If you want to make extra for leftovers don’t add feta, lemon juice, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Salad will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days without dressing.