Quinoa is a nutritious seed that comes from the Andes region of South America. While it cooks like a grain, it is actually more nutritious than most grains because it is high in protein, iron, and calcium. Quinoa is also gluten-free.

For many years, the only quinoa I saw in stores was the traditional white quinoa. Recently, however, I am seeing red and black quinoa, as well. I made this salad with black quinoa, but you can use any variety that you like.

Quinoa seeds are naturally coated with a bitter substance that needs to be removed before cooking. You can easily accomplish this by putting your quinoa into a fine mesh strainer and rinsing thoroughly with warm water before cooking.

For this quinoa salad, you cook the quinoa just as you would cook brown rice- 1 cup quinoa to two cups water. Bring to a boil in a small pot on the stove, cover, reduce heat to simmer, and let cook until water is absorbed. Quinoa cooks fast, so this only takes about 15 minutes. When it is done cooking, turn the heat off but leave it covered for another 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

You don’t have to use grilled vegetables in this salad. If you like the idea of the zucchini and the eggplant but don’t feel like firing up the grill, you could roast them instead. Or you could use chopped tomatoes, cucumber, peppers…lots of combinations would work here, and they’d all be delicious.

Black Quinoa Salad with Grilled Vegetables, Basil, Feta and Pine Nuts

Yield: serves 6-8 as a side dish

Use organic vegetables whenever possible.

Ingredients:

For the salad:

*1 large zucchini
*1 large eggplant
*1 cup raw quinoa, cooked to equal approximately 4 cups cooked quinoa, and then cooled
*1 1/2 cups chopped fresh basil
*approximately 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (I like French feta made with sheep's milk)
*1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted for a minute or so in a hot skillet

Dressing Ingredients:

*1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
*2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
*1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
*1 teaspoon garlic, peeled and minced
*1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
*1/2 teaspoon organic sugar or honey

Directions:

Preparation:
1. Preheat your grill. Sliced the eggplant and zucchini and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in grill basket over high heat and grill until tender. Remove and allow to cool before chopping into bite-sized pieces.

2. Combine the chopped grilled vegetables with the cooked quinoa and the basil in a large bowl. Add most of the crumbled feta cheese. Mix well.

3. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and then pour over the salad. Mix well and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

4. Garnish with the toasted pine nuts and the rest of the feta. You can sprinkle a little more basil on top too, if desired.

A Few More Lovely Quinoa Salads:
Black Quinoa Salad from La Tartine Gourmande
Kalyn’s Quinoa Salad with Avocado
Corn and Black Bean Quinoa Salad from Closet Cooking

This post is linked to this week’s edition of Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, hosted by Amy at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.