Every now and then I get inspired. A couple weeks ago a friend and I met up for a dress fitting and finished everything off with a little happy hour at a great Mediterranean spot in Hell’s Kitchen I hadn’t been to in years. We snacked on tapas and washed everything down with a little half priced white wine (gotta love happy hour). A few days later I was dreaming up some snacks to take with me to a family party and I got inspired to whip up a big Mediterranean spread.
The Mediterranean spread was a total hit – and really warrants a two-part post. While there was the quinoa salad, I also managed to whip up a roasted red pepper and walnut dip. I’ll be sharing that recipe next week – so stay tuned! In the meantime, feel free to drool over your computer at this salad. Not only is is super healthy, it’s beautiful. All the colors compliment each other and really make this a feast for the belly and the eyes.
I’m generally more a fan of the stuff in a salad beyond the lettuce. Weird? I don’t think so. That’s one of the things I love about this salad. No lettuce involved. Which means when you’re whipping up a big batch of it, it will last a few days without having lettuce that gets all soggy and gross. While the base of this salad is quinoa, it’s also packed with veggies and there never seems to be more quinoa than stuff. I wanted all the traditional Mediterranean flavors – tomato, parsley, cucumber, olives – so I started there. And then thought some carrots would add a little more color and crunch to liven things up a bit. It’s like eating the rainbow!
For both the tomato and cucumbers, I made sure to remove the seeds. Because I was whipping up a big batch and expected to spend a day or two working through all the leftovers, I didn’t want the salad to get too watered down. It’s a pretty easy thing to accomplish – for the tomatoes, just cutting them up will often remove a lot of the seeds. And just use a spoon and scoop out the insides of the cucumbers.
For dairy eaters out there, this salad would be perfect topped with some salty feta cheese. Well, instead of feta I opted for one of my favorite cheese substitutes – tofu. Now for you skeptics out there who may be thinking that tofu is not a replacement for feta. But let me tell you, in this salad – you won’t miss it. I wanted to make sure to still get that salty flavor that the tofu doesn’t have by adding a bit more depth to the dressing. In addition to lemon juice and olive oil, I added white miso paste. The miso paste has a salty flavor to it and when mixed in with all the other spices, really gives the dressing an extra kick of flavor.
Aside from how delicious the salad is, it’s also extremely simple to make. The most labor intense part is just chopping up vegetables and cooking quinoa – which is pretty much just boiling water. It all comes together so quickly and makes enough to feed a small army (or a couple for a few meals). It’s one of those dishes that gets even more flavorful as everything sits together in the dressing. I love that it’s packed with nutrients and can really be a side dish or a complete meal. With the quinoa, tofu and chickpeas, it’s also packed full of protein. This was one of those recipes I didn’t expect to amount to much – and was extremely pleased by the outcome. It’s so delicious I’m already planning on making it again, topping it with avocado, and packing it for lunches at work this week.
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
What You’ll Need:
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 3/4 cup water
- 2 3/4 cups cubed cucumber (about 2 medium)
- 1 15ounce can of chickpeas, drained
- 3/4 cup quartered kalamata olives
- 1/2 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons chopped green onion (about 1 medium)
- 1/2 cup chopped carrot (about one small)
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 3/4 cup mashed tofu (approximately a quarter of a block)
For the dressing: (makes about 1/3 cup liquid total)
- Juice from 1 lemon (about 4 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon white miso paste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
What You’ll Do:
- Start by cooking the quinoa – rinse the quinoa with a fine strainer and add to a pot with the water. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and let simmer 15-20 minutes or until the water has absorbed into the quinoa. Remove from heat and let cool.
- While the quinoa is cooking, prepare all the other ingredients. Press the tofu, Cut the cucumber in half and remove the seeds with a spoon. This will keep the salad from getting soggy as it sits at a party or in your fridge. Cut up the olives and cut and seed the tomatoes as well. chop the carrot and parsley. By this time, the tofu should be ready to go.
- Using your hands, just pull the tofu into small pieces – until it resembles feta cheese (see what’s happening here? substitutions)
- Mix the dressing ingredients together with a whisk. It might take a little bit to get the miso paste broken down and all mixed into the rest of the ingredients.
- Add all of the salad ingredients together and top with the dressing. Stir gently until the dressing is evenly distributed among the other ingredients.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate for an hour or so. Enjoy!