Quinoa Salad with Yellow Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Basil + Mint

A light and easy quinoa salad recipe with mint.

I've written about quinoa more than once, so I doubt, Dear Reader, you need me to list all the pro-quinoa reasons why you should try this gluten-free faux grain. You already know it's high in protein. You know how easy it is to cook. You are well aware that quinoa works as a salad- warm or cold- or as stuffing for big juicy mushrooms or rather unconventional stuffed cabbage rolls that might cause your Bubbe to sit up straight in her chair and say, Oy, have I never heard of such a thing! Where do you get these ideas, Shayna Punim?

So I'm not going to wax all educational on ya.

I'd rather wax philosophical. I haven't felt practical. Or pragmatic. Truth is, I sold off furniture to be here. To get out. It's been a long, dry three years in the desert, and living here in Santa Monica is like living inside an intricate dream. The edges here are soft. The colors are gauzy with the salt air. We walk the winding path in Palisades Park at dusk and pass by strangers who meet our eyes and smile- ever so slightly.

As if we share a secret.

Splashes of conversations in Russian, Armenian and Polish float and disappear into the on-shore breeze, curling around the trill of a flute by the park's rose garden in full bloom. The flutist is a young woman with long chestnut hair. She sits on the same park bench every evening in her summer sweater, answering the colors of the petals with her music.

If heaven exists it lives by the sea.

Because the sea invades your bones with a tidal code, a code without words or sound other than the surf that tugs you toward its foamy edge in a way you can't explain. The ocean becomes a big unspoken pull in your life and her maternal grip is fierce. Jung likened the sea to the realm of the unconscious, and there is that, too. The deep. The blue-green dark. Thick with life. And dreams.

And here is the honest truth. If I have to leave in August, if the house in New Mexico has not sold by then after yet another price reduction (below what we paid for it) and we have to return to pragmatism, to another year of waiting it out, if we have to return to life in the desert, that brittle, fragile life in dry isolation, away from this garden of imagination and diversity, I will need every single speck of will power and resignation and zen surrender I can scratch up and muster to keep my heart from breaking.

In the meantime, here is a recipe for quinoa I dreamed up. 

To flute music.

Quinoa salad reminds me of my cous cous pre-celiac days.

Quinoa Salad Recipe with Yellow Grape Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Basil and Mint

Summer is the time for picnics and salads that are easy as pie to toss together. Make this tabbouleh inspired quinoa early in the day, before the heat zaps your cooking mojo. It only gets better the longer it chills. The Mediterranean flavors co-mingle their little hearts out.

Amounts are approximations, a template to guide you. Salad making is more of an art than science.


1 clove of garlic, peeled
2 1/2 to 3 cups cooked quinoa *see How To Cook Quinoa the Super Easy Way
A handful of sweet grape tomatoes- yellow is low acid, and delicious
1 carrot, grated
4 scallions, sliced (white and light green sections)
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, whole or pitted and chopped
1/3 cup slivered nuts- pecans, almonds or walnuts
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice of 1-2 lemons or limes, depending upon size


Rub the clove of raw garlic inside a glass or ceramic salad bowl.

While the cooked quinoa is still a bit warm (but not steaming hot) scoop it into a bowl and fluff with a fork.

Halve or quarter the yellow tomatoes and add them to the bowl. Add in the grated carrot, sliced scallions, Kalamata olives, and slivered nuts. Toss lightly to combine.

Season with sea salt and ground pepper. Add the chopped fresh herbs. Drizzle the salad with extra virgin olive oil- enough to moisten. Toss to distribute. Squeeze a lemon or a lime all over the salad and toss.

Taste test (this is the fun part). Adjust the seasonings. Does it need more olive oil? Salt? More citrus? Is there a good balance of quinoa and add-ins?

When the seasoning tastes right, cover and chill until serving (at least one hour, but a few is even better).

Before serving, taste again and readjust seasonings if you need to. Chilling summer salads- such as quinoa, rice or potato- dulls certain flavors a bit.

Serve as a side dish. Your gluten-free peeps and vegan friends will thank you.

Makes roughly 4 to 6 servings.


  1. I am keeping my fingers crossed for you! You deserve it

  2. I so hope that the house sells and you get to stay near the ocean.

  3. i heart quinoa. i've been having it for breakfast and it makes my tummy happy. i love adding fresh herbs to it too. my basil and mint are growing like crazy!!

  4. I am going to cross my fingers for you and your house. Santa Monica is a really beautiful place...I can see why you want to stay there.

    I love quinoa - a favorite go-to for salads.

  5. I adore reading your blog and although no need to be liberated of sticky gluten, I love and use all your recipes.
    Quinoa is a favorite all year through.
    Funny, though, how we human beings are - we live here in California and have been sentenced here (near the ocean) for 5 long and vapid years.
    We long to return to Taos - to the colour and community, to the sweet smell of pinon smoke and sting of roasted chiles.
    I know how important it is to find home and I hope that you get to root well in your crisp blue ocean world and that we can run vertical again in New Mexico!

  6. Quinoa is great! This recipe sound delicious, I'll have to try it. Usually I serve my quinoa hot with finely chopped red onion and coriander (cilantro) as a side dish to curries, I forget it's brilliant cold too!

  7. I am going to cook this tonight, looks delicious and I HEART Quinoa.

  8. Dear Karina: How similar are our situations. I'm living in the desert of Arizona, longing for the sea. 2 sons living in Southern California, one in Marina del Rey.
    The addition of a new grandson (5 days ago). I cherish the comments you made about the ocean, you put it so well. I am working on being ok with everything as it is now, which enables me to let go, enabling the Universe to step in. And your gluten-free recipes have been a life-saver!

  9. Oh, I do hope you can stay there. Santa Monica is my favorite place in Cal. other than San Fran.

    I'm a water baby too. I live in Minnesota, so no oceans but thousands of lakes. My fave is the incredible shinng big sea water lake...Superior.

    Thanks for another great quinoa recipe.

  10. Good luck Karina! May all the powers in the universe converge to help make that happen.

    Quinoa - one of the gifts of being gluten free. Who woulda thunk?


  11. My heart goes out to you Karina!
    I too wish to go back to living near the sea where I grew up... I’ve been living in the mountains (albeit the beautiful Blue Mountains in Australia) for 28 years and I can’t tell you how strong the longing is to be near the sea and city again. I am so sick of Gum trees and bracken; I need the blue, green ocean and the wonders of city life almost as much as GF food! Hope you get a sale soon and thanks for this and all the other wonderful recipes you so generously share with us.

  12. quinoa is a fabulous grain! especially if, like me you are gluten free vegan, it has so much protein, and like many others have said, so easy to digest. I am also a sucker for anything with kalamata olives in it!

  13. "If heaven exists it lives by the sea."
    I agree with my whole heart. Every day I spend in the Utah desert makes me miss the ocean more!
    I do hope that you are able to stay out there :)
    I am so excited to try this recipe tonight! I have everything on hand. I think it will go great with the Mediterranean focaccia bread I have in the oven right now. Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. This is lush summer in a bowl. If in fact you are forced from your paradise, I imagine you will find at least a bit of comfort in a dish like this...it will tide you over until your return. But here's hoping there is no need for a return!

  15. Wow Karina all your food looks so tasty! My mother can't eat anything with gluten in it and I know she'd love this. Your blog has officially been passed on to her. Great recipes, can't wait to see many more!

  16. Looks really delicious. I have bought some quinoa but have yet to prepare it. Soon, I hope.


  17. This looks so tasty. I've yet to try it but I will be now that I have a recipe. Thanks!

  18. Beautiful post. Thanks for yet another quinoa idea. It's probably my very favorite grain.

  19. Thanks to all of you. You're the best. You know that, right?



  20. Hi Karina,

    I just stumbled across your blog the other day and I love your gluten-free and casein-free recipes! I'm currently eating gluten, dairy, casein, and (mostly) starch free, so it's great to find recipes like yours that I don't have to do 30 substitutions to make! This quinoa salad was delicious! I made it today and added just a little bit of celery for crunch. Yum. Thanks again!

  21. Delicious option. This is something my whole family would love and I know they'd all be begging for seconds. Thanks for all the excellent meal options.