Mediterranean-Style Quinoa Salad

As much as I’d like to mainline melted chocolate, my body does need actual nutrients on a regular basis. Fortunately, as much as I love dessert, I crave vegetables and whole grains to the same extent. After becoming a vegetarian, I was forced to give up the meat + side dish of grains + side dish of vegetables and in favor of a more complex, integrated diet in order to stay healthy and well-fed. Foods I had previously turned my nose up at quickly became diet staples. One of those foods is quinoa.

This easy quinoa salad is filling and nutrient-dense, good for a light lunch as either a main or a side. The nuttiness of the quinoa is balanced out by the acidity of the olives and artichoke hearts and the creamy cheese, making for a satisfying meal in both flavor and texture. You can make a large batch of this salad in advance and keep it in the refrigerator to eat throughout the week, or you can make just enough for a personal serving and enjoy it for a single meal.

Mediterranean-Style Quinoa Salad
Yields 1 serving

Ingredients
1/2 cup uncooked red quinoa
2 baby zucchini
1 green onion
2-3 jarred artichoke hearts
4-5 Kalamata olives
1 ounce goat cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dash red pepper flakes, optional

Instructions
1. Place quinoa in pot and add 1 cup water. Salt water as you would pasta or rice. Bring water to a boil, then turn heat down to a steady simmer. Simmer quinoa, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, checking at the 20 minute mark to see if quinoa is as soft as desired. If there is any excess water, strain in a colander. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool to room temperature.

2. Chop olives, artichoke hearts, baby zucchini, and green onion into small pieces and add to quinoa. Transfer to bowl.

3. Add a pinch of salt and freshly-cracked pepper. For some heat, toss a few flakes of red pepper, and mix thoroughly.

4. Crumble goat cheese and sprinkle over top of cooled salad. If quinoa is still very warm, the cheese will melt and clump the quinoa together.

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