D Magazine made a bold claim about a year ago on its cover. The reporter, a food writer and restaurant reviewer, claimed to have found the “Best Quinoa Salad in the History of Ever.”
Interesting, I thought. Hyperbolic, certainly, especially since I was pretty sure the best quinoa salad ever was one I had made for Thanksgiving, with cranberries, sausage and almonds. But I was determined to give it a go.
Nancy Nichols from D Magazine went to Start, a “fast slow food” restaurant in Dallas that focuses on fresh, easy cuisine. The salad is so good, she said, that she ordered it a dozen times before realizing that she probably should review something else for the purposes of the article.
The picture is beautiful—quinoa bursting with crisp, bright vegetables and nuggets of creamy cheese. I knew when I saw the picture that I had to make it.
It was a challenge, trying to develop a recipe from a picture and a short description. The writer described blanched broccoli, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and some sort of “herb vinaigrette.” That’s a pretty broad term, “herb vinaigrette.” My first thought was “what herbs?” followed closely by “what vinegar?” I chose thyme and oregano, as those are fairly typical of Greek cooking, with a dash of lemon and a healthy pinch of whatever Greek seasoning mix was in my spice drawer, which I think involved garlic powder and salt. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar completed the dressing.
The picture also showed tomatoes and red onion, which I let marinate in the vinaigrette while I chopped the feta and olives. The broccoli is blanched in the cooking quinoa to save a pot and an extra step.
Is it the best quinoa salad in the history of ever? Probably not (that’s a pretty high bar to set), but it was delicious — and a great way to pack some veggies into your January.
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 medium head broccoli, broken into florets
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
- 1 tsp dried Greek oregano
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Garlic powder to taste
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 pint pitted black kalamata olives, halved
- ½ cucumber, seeded and diced
- 4 ounces feta cheese crumbles or block, diced
- ½ red onion, diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat quinoa and broth to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat; cover and let simmer for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more broth if needed. Add broccoli, and let steam for three more minutes or until tender. Set aside; chill in freezer while making everything else, if a chilled salad is desired.
- Combine olive oil, vinegar, thyme, oregano, lemon juice and garlic powder in small bowl or glass. Whisk until combined.
- Pour dressing into large serving bowl. Combine dressing with tomatoes, olives, cucumber, cheese and onion. Toss thoroughly. Add quinoa and broccoli to the bowl and stir until combined. Serve immediately or chill for several hours before serving.
- This salad will last 48 hours in the fridge; the tomatoes will suffer slightly, but the vinaigrette flavors will intensify.