Quinoa, Feta, and Pomegranate Salad

This is one of my favorite salads of all time. It’s easy, loaded with protein, and the texture is wonderful. Note that the quinoa and broccoli need to be cooked beforehand and left to cool; I tend to cook them the day before I make the salad just to make things easier when I put the ingredients together.

I got the recipe from a colleague in London in the summer of 2009.

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Serves 6

300g (10.5 oz.) quinoa
200g (7 oz.) tenderstem broccoli
200g (7 oz.) feta cheese
1 handful pumpkin seeds
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 large handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 large handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
4 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. lemon juice

Cook the quinoa according to the package directions and leave to cool. Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into bite-size pieces and lightly steam until tender.

Once the hot ingredients are cool, stir them together gently along with the feta, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds, herbs, and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tahini Tomato Salad

IMAG1900The tahini makes this a nice change from a regular tomato salad. Consider making this easy salad alongside a Middle Eastern or Turkish meal (like the moussaka, above).

Serves 4 as a side salad

1/3 cup tahini paste
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Salt and white pepper to taste
4 medium tomatoes, cut into thin wedges or slices, or chopped
Small handful of parsley, chopped

In a small bowl, stir tahini and cumin. Add lemon juice and stir; the mixture will become very thick. Thin with hot water, a little bit at a time, until the mixture is thin enough to be spooned. Lay the tomatoes on salad plates and drizzle the tahini mixture on top, then sprinkle with parsley.

Arugula Salad with Grapes

This is another recipe dictated by my pregnancy appetite these days, but it’s a light and refreshing salad that could work well under normal circumstances, too! The combination of tart grapes with creamy avocado is divine. Try this for a light lunch with friends or as a simple first course at dinner.

Serves 2

Fresh arugula
16 green grapes, washed and halved lengthwise
1 ripe avocado, peeled, halved, pitted, and sliced
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

Drop about two handfuls of arugula on each plate. Top with an equal amount of grapes and avocado, breaking up the avocado slices just a little before you add them. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve.

Quinoa Avocado Salad with Spinach

This salad turned out so well and was so delicious that I could imagine it being served in a restaurant. It’s easy to make and full of healthy goodness.

3/4 cup uncooked white quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
Bag of fresh spinach leaves
2 plum tomatoes
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 ripe avocados

In a small saucepan, combine quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Place quinoa in a medium bowl and place in refrigerator to cool.

Take a handful or two of spinach and shred it until you have about 1/2 cup. Finely chop the tomatoes and place with the spinach in a small bowl. Add the feta and mix.

In another small bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and whisk with a fork. Peel, halve, and pit the avocados, then slice them and set aside.

Prepare the plates by laying down a bed of spinach, then arrange the avocado slices in a sunshine pattern. Take the quinoa out of the refrigerator and add the spinach-tomato-feta mixture. Whisk the lemon juice and olive oil mixture once more and add to the quinoa, then divide quinoa mixture evenly among the plates.

Makes 4 servings. Keeps well for a next-day lunch.

Peachy Keen Lentil Salad

I know — this is yet another salad recipe, but it’s the summer and I just want cool, simple dinners these days. I got this recipe from the back of an artsy greeting card with a huge peach on the front in Atlanta about 10 years ago. I put it in my recipe book and never got around to making it until last night. The result was so delicious that it was another case of, “Why on earth did I wait so long?”

Everything works together really well here — the peaches freshen up the lentils, the balsamic brings out the flavor of the fruit, the basil works well with the feta. This is a great salad to serve for lunch, maybe with crispy crackers. On its own, it makes a wonderful meal for vegetarians and those on low-GI and Weight Watchers plans — especially if you can find fat-free feta.

One more thing — this is a great way to use up leftover feta you may have in the fridge. Just adjust the proportions as needed.

Serves 4

1 cup green or Puy lentils*
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup crumbled feta (fat-free if possible)
2 peaches, cubed
2 basil sprigs, chopped
Dash of lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Boil a pot of water and add the lentils. Cook about 10 minutes or until the lentils are al dente. Drain and set aside.

When the lentils have cooled, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. And add the lentils and mix gently to combine.

*French Puy lentils and green lentils retain their shape when cooked, so they’re good to use in recipes like this one. Click here for a list of different kinds of lentils.

Chicken Souvlaki Salad

This is an absolutely delicious chicken salad that would also be perfect inside pita bread or on some crispy pita crackers. It’s not traditional souvlaki — more like a Greek salad — but who cares when it tastes this good. It’s also super easy.

I made this with chicken breasts I boiled the other day. That’s my new favorite way to cook chicken — it leaves it moist and there is no fat involved. If you don’t have any on hand, it’s easy enough to make: Just boil some water, add trimmed chicken pieces, take them out when cooked through, and let cool.

Makes 4 servings

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 lb. cooked boneless, skinless chicken, cubed
3 cups cubed, peeled cucumbers (2-3 cucumbers)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
8 black olives, pitted and chopped
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
1/4 cup grated peeled cucumber
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
Salt and black pepper

Combine first seven ingredients (garlic through chicken breast) in a large bowl. Mix in cucumber, onion, feta, olives, and tomatoes.

In a separtate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, then pour over chicken mixture and toss well.

Melissa’s Black Bean Salad

I just came up with this recipe after testing two others that had been in my cookbook for years — and deciding I liked neither. What I wanted was a black bean salad that focused on the beans, with a little bit of of crunch and a lot of flavor, so I just mixed together the things I liked and wound up with a winner. I should have done it that way all along.

The flavor is a bit Tex-Mex (I seem to be on a southwestern kick lately). Adjust the chili powder to your liking — I accidentally made mine hotter than I intended, but I love it, and that’s the amount represented here. You can also add whatever other ingredients you like to make it your own — onion, chopped chicken, grated cheese, tortilla chips, or lettuce would all be very nice.

Serves 2 (easy to double)

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tomato, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 1/2 red peppers, chopped
About 10 sprigs of cilantro (fresh coriander), finely chopped
1 tsp. grated lime zest
Olive oil
Lime juice
2/3 avocado, peeled and chopped
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. chili powder or cayenne pepper
Black pepper
Salt

Mix all ingredients together and enjoy!

Santa Fe Chicken Salad

This southwestern chicken salad won my cook-off at home last night. It looks and tastes like a main-dish salad at a restaurant — big, delicious, with bite-size pieces and plenty of crunch. The recipe calls for cooked chicken, which makes this a great way to use up leftovers. If you don’t have leftovers to use, I recommend placing some chicken pieces in boiling water until cooked through, then chopping or shredding it as desired.

Serves 4-5 as main dish

6 cups Romaine lettuce, torn in pieces
4 oz. corn tortilla chips, crushed by hand, with a few whole chips saved for garnish
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. chili sauce (use a thick opaque one — I like Nando’s Hot Peri-Peri Sauce)
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce, like Tabasco
2 cups chopped or shredded chicken meat (from roughly 4 chicken breast halves)
5 green onions, chopped
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and rained
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and sliced into thin wedges, then halved
2 tomatoes, cut into think wedges, then halved

Line plates or pasta bowls with lettuce, then top with chips. In small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, chili sauce and hot pepper sauce. Pour into larger mixing bowl and combine with the rest of the ingredients, tossing to make sure everything is coated. Place the mixture on top of the chips and Romaine, then garnish with a few whole chips.

For best presentation, pull out some tomato or avocado pieces from the mixture and lay them on top.

Luxury Tuna Salad

The phrase “tuna salad” probably doesn’t conjure up images of luxury, but this recipe may change that. I happen to love tuna salad — not just for the taste, but also because it can be healthy and adapted in various subtle ways. This is a great example.

I made this recipe last night for the first time in a while and was reminded of how delicious it is. I ate it on top of toasted wholemeal bread, but it could also be good on crispy lettuce leaves or as part of a sandwich. If you use fat-free mayonnaise, it also fits perfectly with a low-GI or Weight Watchers diet.

It’s so easy to make that it’s also worth noting this makes a good appetizer, put in small spoonfuls on crackers or in the crevices of celery sticks.

Makes enough for 4-6 sandwiches, depending on how much you fill them with.

3 celery stalks
4 canned artichoke hearts, either in water or marinade, but well drained
1 can tuna, in water or brine, well drained
3 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. mayonnaise
Mustard powder to taste

Dice the celery and put it into a bowl. Chop the artichoke hearts into eighths, then cut each slice in half and add it to the celery (you want slightly bigger chunks than the celery, but not too big). Add the tuna, mayonnaise, and mustard powder. You probably won’t need salt and pepper, but taste to be sure.

Birthday Fruit Salad

This recipe involved a lot of firsts, starting with the salad itself. I had never made one before. My mom makes an excellent fruit salad that I remember fondly from when I was growing up, and I wasn’t about to try to copy it. So I started with a recipe I already had on hand and adapted it based on what was available and what I wanted in the salad (and how much room we had in the fridge).

I had never cut open a whole watermelon before, nor had I ever cut fresh pineapple. Both were so easy and pleasing that I wondered why on earth I had waited so long to try them.

I served the fruit salad at my birthday party the other week and people really seemed to like it, so I’m guessing it’s good enough to share.

Serves 10

1 small watermelon
1 fresh pineapple
1 bunch of green grapes
1 small bunch of red grapes
100g or less blueberries
Agave syrup (or honey)

Use a melon baller to scoop out balls of watermelon, and place them in a large bowl.

To cut the pineapple, cut off the top and bottom, then stand it upright on a cutting board. Use a chopping knife to cut off the skin in thick strips, starting at the top and going straight down. Continue doing this until all the skin has been taken off, and use a paring knife to cut out any prickly knobs that are left behind. Then, keeping the pineapple upright on the cutting board, use the knife to cut off sections, leaving the core intact (discard the core later). Lay the sections down on the cutting board and cut chunks as desired.

Wash the grapes, cut each in half, and add to the bowl. For color, use more green grapes than red — maybe a ratio of 2 to 1.

Wash the blueberries and toss them in. Again, let color be your guide — add as many or as few as you think the salad needs to look good.

Drizzle agave syrup (or honey, if you don’t have agave) on top, then toss gently with a wooden spoon.

I think the recipe worked because of the nice mix of colors, the strong taste of each of the fruits, and the different shapes — but you could adapt it however you like. You could add cut strawberries for a burst of red, or cut sections of tangerine to add citrus. I avoided using apple or banana just because I wanted strong colors and tastes, but you could use them, too. (If you do use apple, dress the pieces with lemon juice before putting them in the bowl to prevent them from turning brown.) Other berries like blackberries would look spectacular, as would sections of kiwi. You could chop fresh mint and sprinkle it on top. Melons and mangoes don’t interest me so much, but they could also be a nice addition.