When you get invited to a cookout, or some other type of summer event, do you have a favorite go-to dish that you like to bring (besides desert)? No sweets in this post. I know I do. My favorite dish for a summer cookout is quinoa salad. Let’s face it… besides the actual quinoa, you can basically add a variety of different fruits, vegies, nuts, and cheese that you have at your disposal in the kitchen. No extra shopping necessary. This versatile salad is also one of my favorites since there is no baking required, and the only cooking is for the quinoa. This dish makes for a great travel partner too. Just place the food in Tupperware, and stick it in the car and go.
Let’s talk about quinoa itself, which is clearly the star ingredient in this tasty salad (well besides the Feta cheese) J. Quinoa is actually called an ancient grain, since it hasn’t been altered much in thousands of years. Quinoa comes in many different colors and types, however the most popular and widely sold are red, black, white (tannish), and tricolored. I think they all taste great, but my favorite to use in this recipe is multi-color because it makes the disk look prettier. After all, presentation is extremely important. Quinoa is also very high in protein. In fact, it has a very high protein to carbohydrate ratio. Quinoa also wins compared to other grains with its high fiber makeup. Furthermore, quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it one of the only plant based foods that does. This versatile grain is also high in minerals such as iron, and magnesium, and vitamins such as calcium, and vitamin A and E. Lastly, this little grain is a great source of antioxidants. Here’s the selling point… quinoa is gluten free! Another quality that I love about quinoa is that it can be served in recipes hot or cold. Genius right?
Now onto my quinoa salad, first step cook the quinoa. Follow the directions on your packet, my packet from Trader Joes says to use 2 cups of liquid to 1 cup of uncooked quinoa. I use vegetable broth instead of water most of the time, as I feel this adds a richer flavor, but you are welcome to use water. Once the ingredients are boiling, turn the heat down, and cover and cook for 15 minutes. This should be sufficient time as you do not want to overcook the quinoa, or it will become soggy. The quinoa should have a slightly hard texture still, almost a slight crunch. The next step is easy… just let it cool down. If you are pressed for time you can always stick in the fridge or freezer to expedite cooling.
The next step can be performed while your quinoa is cooling. You simply need a chopping knife and a cutting board. Once you have selected your add in’s, you can simply cut them into bite size pieces. I definitely have a favorite combination of add in’s. I’m sure you will too. I usually put in tomatoes, using cherry tomatoes for the most part, if I’m using a whole tomato I will chop it into bite size pieces. I do try to keep some of the liquid center of the tomato out. I also add cucumber which has such a light, refreshing taste, especially in the summer, with a nice crunch from the skin. I cut the cucumber into long lines, than chop into bite size pieces. I also add a pepper of some sort, usually an orange bell pepper, since orange is my favorite color bell pepper, and I usually always have one handy. This is also cut bite size. I also typically add arugula salad. I rip or cut the pieces into halves. The arugula tastes so good with this salad.
My go-to cheese is Feta. I’m obsessed with Feta, and try to use it as often as possible. I feel as though I was late in jumping on the feta bandwagon, so I’m simply making up for lost time J. The feta flavor really does go well with the grains, and other vegies, plus the feta’s crumble ability works out well with sprinkling on the salad, and saving a few pieces for me to eat!
Once the quinoa has cooled, and you are done chopping, you simply add your veggies and cheese. I also add pumpkin seeds, which have great flavor and an amazing crunch. The final ingredient is olive oil, which is optional. Sometimes I do not add the olive oil if the salad seems to have enough liquid from the vegies. However, just a few teaspoons goes a long way. I will say if you are making the salad, but not eating it for a day (which would be hard for me to do), then don’t add the olive oil until the next day when you are closer to serving this. Since the veggies provide liquid, you do not want this to become soggy. All that’s left is chilling your quinoa salad in the fridge.
The combination of the arugula, feta, quinoa, and vegies is nothing short of phenomenal. This has such a clean, crisp taste, which is great for any summer event. Especially 90+ degrees summer days, where the heat index feels like 103 outside, Ugh. Where are you fall?