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.

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.