If I could pick one cuisine to live off for the rest of my life it would be Mediterranean. Ok maybe Italian. Well maybe they are both tied for first. And to me it doesn’t get better than a fresh Mediterranean Salad with my own twist. Quinoa.
Kalamata Olives. Briny, tangy, juicy and packed with healthy fat.
Cherry Tomatoes. Fresh, sweet, springy. Each one like a tiny red balloon bursting with flavor.
Cucumber. The king of freshness and crunch. Juicy and hydrating at the same time giving the salad that much that cool vibe.
Red onions. Purple little freckles. Sweet, slightly crunchy and with a biting onion flavor to spice up the salad.
Quinoa. The secret ingredient. Fluffy, soft, and nutty. Oh yea and so healthy! Iron, fiber, protein galore, vitamin E and calcium (a total of 27 Health Benefits for this super grain). Endless health and yumminess.
Feta Cheese. Ahhhh, salty and crumbly. I adore this cheese. So much so, that I could eat it by the block. No joke. It adds salty, cheesy, creaminess to anything.
Greek Vinaigrette. The liquid potion to bind it all together. Lemon, good olive oil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Each of these ingredients emulsified to make a simple delicious dressing that coats every veggie and is soaked up by the quinoa.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the traditional Greek salad with leafy lettuce but it doesn’t always fill me up and is not great for traveling. Let me explain. I like a salad with good protein power to keep me satiated. Unless I eat a jumbo Greek salad, I normally feel like I need more. Also dressed salad doesn’t save great for events or parties or your lunch… so the answer is quinoa!
Replace the lettuce with quinoa and ta-da! It becomes the ultimate salad, side, lunch, picnic food, BBQ side.. You name it and its good! Healthy, fresh, and taste like summers in Greece (I imagine).
I’ve made this salad for several parties, countless packed lunches and many dinner sides. And it’s always a favorite. If you want to make it a heftier meal for meat eaters, just add some grilled chicken or salmon.
Without further ado… my favorite salad 👏
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Serves 4. Gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan (use vegan cheese), make ahead and kiddo-friendly
Slightly adapted from Bobby Flay’s Quinoa Greek Salad
*Notes: I like to soak red onions in cold water for a few minutes to make them a bit milder and less pungent/burpy but still keep that crispness. After soaking, make sure you strain them and give them a quick dry with a paper towel.
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 clove garlic, smashed and finely chopped
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup white quinoa
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly diced, soaked and strained*
- 1/2 cucumber, cut into small dice
- 6 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
In a small bowl whisk the lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, garlic and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Continue to whisk until liquid goes from clear to opaque and is emulsified. Set aside at room temperature while you prep the salad.
In another small bowl, place your chopped onions and cover with cold water. Let them soak for 5ish minute while you finish the salad.
Rinse the quinoa in a strainer. Combine the quinoa, 2 cups water and a pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Then reduce to simmer and cook until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.
Transfer to a salad bowl, fluff with a fork and let sit for 5 minutes to let it cool a bit. Add the tomatoes, olives, cherry tomatoes, red onions (strained and dried), cucumbers, feta and dressing. Toss to coat.
You can either eat it right away or let it sit covered in the fridge anywhere for up to 8 hours before serving. The longer it sits the more flavorful it becomes.
Enjoy at room temp while dreaming of warm sandy beaches.
For a comprehensive list of quinoa health benefits visit: 27 Science Backed Health Benefits of Quinoa from Well-Being Secrets.