Whether in a large or small household, you often want to cook once and subsequently enjoy an extra meal or two for the effort. When that’s the case in a small household, this Mediterranean-inspired salad won’t get tiring.
Healthful high-protein quinoa, grilled summer vegetables, fresh herbs, a lively lemon and olive oil dressing and feta cheese are combined to make a light and refreshing salad for lunch or as a side dish to accompany grilled meats, poultry or seafood. For a light supper, a chilled soup alongside would be perfect.
Although I frequently cook quinoa for clients, I’ve found it challenging to get it “just right” by following the package instructions. Most have you rinse it (to remove the bitter coating known as saponin), add to boiling water, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. My result was generally undercooked quinoa with water remaining in the pot.
The method I’ve found that works better is to leave the cover off while it’s simmering so I can watch it. After about 15 to 17 minutes when much of the water has been absorbed or cooked out and the “germ” begins to appear, I then cover and let it stand off the heat for 10 to 12 minutes. Quinoa is cooked when the germ has been fully released and it’s fluffy and tender.
If you’d rather not go to the trouble, fully cooked quinoa is now available in the freezer section near the vegetables at some area grocery stores. Couscous or orzo may be substituted for the quinoa.
When you have leftover grilled vegetables from another meal, this salad is a great way to use them. If outdoor grilling is not an option, a grill pan works just as well as does roasting the vegetables.
We like our salads with more dressing therefore, the dressing recipe makes a generous amount; use as much as you like. If you plan to make the salad ahead of time to serve later, stir in a small amount to flavor it and keep it moist. When ready to serve, add more dressing as desired.
MEDITERRANEAN QUINOA and GRILLED VEGETABLE SALAD
2 cups water
— zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon olive oil, plus more for grilling vegetables
— salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
2 small yellow squash, halved lengthwise
1 small eggplant, sliced into ½-inch slices
1 small red bell pepper, cut into thick slices
4 scallions, white and light green part only, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
½ cup crumbled feta cheese (or more if desired)
Bring water, lemon zest, olive oil and salt and black pepper to a boil. Add quinoa, return to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15-17 minutes or until water is almost absorbed and the germ of the quinoa is beginning to appear. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 10-12 minutes. Fluff with a fork, transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the vegetables with olive oil and season well with salt and black pepper. Grill 3-4 minutes per side or to desired doneness. Let cool.
When vegetables have cooled, cut the eggplant in half into half moons and slice the zucchini into 1-inch pieces. Add to quinoa.
Add parsley, chives, mint and feta cheese to quinoa and gently stir to combine.
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
— salt and black pepper, to taste
Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour desired amount over salad and stir to combine.