Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Greek Inspired Quinoa Salad

Greek salads are one of my favorites.  I think it has a lot to do with the kalamata olives.  I just love them. But it’s also the combination of flavors, crispy cucumbers, spicy red onions, and juicy ripe tomatoes.   It’s probably better to make Greek salads later in the summer when cucumbers and tomatoes are taking over the garden, but I found some cute little Persian seedless organic cucumbers and I wanted to try them. 

(I should have taken a picture of the cucumbers, but I forgot)
I also wanted to make a salad we could eat as a main course and not a side dish, so I expanded on the Greek salad idea and added quinoa, garbanzo beans, pine nuts and lettuce.  The beans, grains and nuts provide a complete protein, all the essential amino acids found in animal products, but without the animals.
Start by slicing half of a red onion into thin slices.  Red onions are milder than yellow or white ones.

Then mix them with the sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and garbanzo beans.

Next, I added a cup of chopped up romaine lettuce leaves.  They’re a little sturdier than a butter lettuce, so they hold up better in this kind of salad.

Let’s not forget the quinoa. I added a cup of the cooked grain.   If you haven’t tried quinoa (keen-wha) yet, go out and buy yourself some.  This is a wonderful high protein grain that should be a regular on your plate.  You can use it in place of rice in most dishes.  (yes, even you TC)

Feta cheese is usually included in a Greek salad but, sadly, I must try to avoid it, so I developed a creamy kalamata dressing to trick my brain into thinking I was eating some feta.  I used soaked cashews to give the dressing that creamy texture.
I bought a little food processor about a year ago and it works perfectly to make salad dressings.  I like to make them fresh, in small batches to match the salad that I’m serving.  That’s difficult in a larger processor or a blender.  Cashews, olives, lemon juice, parsley, olive oil, water, and salt.  You could leave the oil out all together if you wanted, there is enough fat in the cashews and the olives by themselves, but it does make it a little more creamy.

Greek Style Quinoa Salad

Makes 2 dinner size servings or 4 side salads - Use organic ingredients whenever possible

For the Salad:
10 cherry or plum tomatoes, sliced in half
10 kalamata olives, sliced in half
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced and quartered cucumber 
1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans
2 cups chopped romaine lettuce leaves
1 cup cooked quinoa
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Put all of the ingredients in a large bowl except for the pine nuts.  
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss.
Plate the salad and sprinkle the top of each with pine nuts.
For the Creamy Kalamata Dressing:
1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least an hour
4 kalamata olives
1 tablespoon liquid from the olive jar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or replace with water)
Drain the cashews.
Put all of the ingredients, except for the olive oil and water, in a blender or food processor, and process until somewhat smooth.
Scrape down the sides of the processor and turn it back on.
Sowly add the water, one tablespoon at a time.
While the processor is still running, add the oil.
Continue processing until the dressing is smooth and pourable.  (you may need to add more water)

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