Spring into Summer Quinoa Salad

In this awkward transition time of spring into summer, when the farmer’s markets haven’t quite opened up in full, and your taste buds can’t decide if you’re ready to switch to more raw and cold salads yet, it’s handy to have a recipe around that is straight forward and prepares you for the summer bounty to come.

Quinoa, the magic grain historically cultivated by the Incas, has risen to the top of staple grain lists held by nutritionists, health and sports enthusiasts, and eco-conscious families.  Personally, I like quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) for its texture and versatility.  When it’s cooked well, it’s slightly crunchy, just a tad moist, like eating a million tiny chewy balloons.  It leaves you feeling great because it isn’t a true grain – it’s actually a seed!  So you don’t get the same heavy bloated feeling as from white rice or pasta.  Plus, it is also a complete protein and gluten free!!  It can be used to replace rice or couscous, as a bed for tagines, stews, and chilies.  It can also be made into salads which are great for a lunch picnic on a hot spring day or an entrée at a first-bbq potluck party.

The quinoa salad I had tonight takes on a Mediterranean taste, employing roasted vegetables, mint, feta, and a hint of citrus.  With the nights cooling off, it’s easy to roast the vegetables in the oven.  When it gets hotter, I’ll be thinking about firing up the barbeque, or just going raw!

Here are the instructions.  Please don’t be discouraged by the number of words, it really is only three steps – roast the vegetables, cook the quinoa and peas, and toss it all together with accoutrements.  Each step fits into the others’ waiting time, but it’s useful to start with all the vegetables chopped and quinoa soaked and feta crumbled…etc.

This recipe serves 4 as a meal or 6 as an appetizer; can serve up to 8 at a pot luck.

How to make it

1. Roast vegetables

  • 2 zucchini halved and chopped into chunks
  • 1 head broccoli, sliced
  • 1 head cauliflower, sliced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 heaping tsp cumin seeds

First, toss the chopped vegetables with the olive oil and cumin seeds.  Place evenly on a large baking sheet and roast at 400 F for 20 to 30 minutes.  They are ready when 50% of the vegetables’ surfaces have turned into a lovely golden brown.  Set aside to cool.

2. Cook quinoa and peas

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup frozen peas

While the vegetables are roasting, soak and rinse the quinoa; I like to use a mixture of red and white.  Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water.  Here are some instructions on how to cook quinoa if you are not familiar.  Once the quinoa is done, pour into a fine strainer and set aside to cool.  The quinoa will cool faster if you spread it out a bit!

As the quinoa is cooking (since it takes about 20 minutes), cook the peas in boiling water for 1 minute.  Then immediately plunge into a cold water bath (or just pour them into a strainer and run cold water over the cooked peas – lazy Momo way).  Set aside to let dry or pat dry with a paper towel.

3. Assemble!

  • 1 big handful of fresh mint leaves, minced
  • ½ heaping cup of crumbled feta
  • 2 tbsp orange infused olive oil (or zest of 1 orange plus olive oil)
  • 2 tbsp Fig balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic vinegar plus 1 tsp maple syrup)
  • Salt

In a large salad bowl, gently add in the roasted vegetables, cooled quinoa (it can be warmish, just not steaming hot), peas, mint leaves, and crumbled feta.  Toss, and then mix in the orange oil and balsamic vinegar.  Add a dash of salt.  Here you can adjust the taste by adding more balsamic vinegar, or a squeeze of orange juice, or more maple syrup.

Enjoy at room temperature.  It can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Ready to be roasted!


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