Quinoa salad is a very nice meal option, and the one I’m featuring in this post can work as starter, main course or even snack. It’s packed with things that are both tasty and good for you, like olive oil and cherry tomatoes, plus it’s completely vegetarian! Switch the feta for a non-dairy cheese substitute and this salad will easily turn vegan. It is my go-to option when I have vegetarian guests, they usually really love it.
One year ago I featured another quinoa salad here on the blog, but it contained a lot of salmon so it was not strictly vegetarian but pescatarian. My goal with that salad was to have a protein-rich option for a healthy alternative to meat. It was inspired by the recipe featured in this post, which I’ve been making for much longer. Yet for some reason I never ended up having this one here. Every time I made it I never really got to photograph it. You can find the recipe to my other quinoa salad here.
I generally prepare this quinoa salad in two steps. First I take care of all the ingredients that make it up, then I prepare the fresh basil pesto dressing to add only once the cooked and baked ingredients have cooled almost to room temperature.
Quinoa salad recipe
- 150 g quinoa (400 ml water)
- 1 small shallot (around 25 g)
- 70 g feta
- 100 g cherry tomatoes
- ¾ tbsp olive oil
- ⅓ tsp salt
- pepper to taste
Set 400 ml of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Soak the quinoa under running water and keep it in a strainer until the water is ready. When the water boils, add the quinoa to the pot, lower the heat to medium-low and cook covered until the water has all been absorbed. It should take about 15 minutes. When the quinoa is ready, transfer it to a serving bowl so that it cools down a bit.
Now take care of the shallot. Cut it in a fine dice, you want to have the tiniest pieces possible. Fill a small bowl with ice-cold water and soak the diced onion in it for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, drain the water, add new ice-cold water to the bowl, and soak again. This double soaking should rid the shallot of any excess juice, making it sweeter in taste. Drain and dry the shallot and add it to the quinoa.
In the meantime you can take care of the cherry tomatoes. In this recipe I like to use roasted cherry tomatoes, but if you prefer to use them raw you can just season them and add them as they are. Cut each cherry tomato in 4 and season them with olive oil, salt and pepper. If you want to roast them, follow the instructions I wrote in a post exclusively dedicated to oven-roasted cherry tomatoes.
Dice, or crumble, the feta cheese and add it to the cooked quinoa, together with the cherry tomatoes. Now that everything has been added to the main bowl, it’s time to take care of the dressing! Optionally, you can set aside a handful of feta and a few tomatoes to use as decoration at the end, like I did.
Pesto dressing with pumpkin seeds
- 8 basil sprigs (about 4-6 leaves each, stems discarded)
- 50 ml olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 30 g pumpkin seeds
Remove the top leaves from 8 basil stems, it should be the youngest and freshest leaves of the bunch, usually 4 or 6. Rinse them under cold water and gently pat them dry. Combine clean leaves with the rest of the ingredients in a tall container and blend until smooth.
This is a “cheaper” version of regular pesto sauce, as it does not involve the use of pine nuts nor Parmigiano cheese. It is still based on fresh basil leaves and olive oil, so two of the main ingredients are featured. Being used as a dressing and not a sauce, it calls for quite a good amount of oil and salt, if compared to pasta sauce pesto. Therefore I recommend this version for seasoning salads rather than as pasta sauce.
As I wrote before, I add the dressing when the quinoa and roasted tomatoes have almost reached room temperature. I don’t chill it completely, as I generally like it when it’s still slightly warm.
Recognize the main bowl featured here? I have photographed it before, in another salad that, by the way, also featured feta and a roasted veggie. This bowl is crafted in a pottery lab based in Falun, Sweden, called Studio Kurbits. You can shop similar pieces from their webshop on Etsy and make sure to tell Pernilla you saw it on Electric Blue Food!