Looking back to all my summer holidays from the last ten years, I’ve realized they were mostly based in different spots of the Mediterranean. Boy we were consequent, and I swear it wasn’t a plan, it simply turned out this way. Med flavors had a huge impact on the way I cook and eat, especially throughout the summer when all the aromatic herbs and fresh veggies are in season.
As long as the first fresh mint, sage or basil stems pop up at the farmers’ market, everything changes in my kitchen. I’m in a constant search of new ways to combine some of my favorite ingredients: fresh aromatic herbs, tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, with protein-rich ones: chickpeas, beans, quinoa, so that I can create satiating summer meals with the least of effort and abundant flavor.
This quinoa salad made a lovely meal some of the other evenings, when I came back from my photo studio with a jar of cooked quinoa and a lot of chopped herbs I’ve been using for a client photo shooting. Roasting the few veggies I had left in the refrigerator felt like the natural way, so thirty minutes later I had this filling, healthy meal ready to serve.
I’ve developed a real skill for assembling tasteful and satiating salads, and this is really a satisfying achievement for a person that used to put together some green leaves, lemon and olive oil, and forced herself having it as a meal. All this while I was constantly asking afterwards why I still had the hunger feeling.
If a salad stands as a meal of its own than it should definitely contain more than just fresh veggies or green leaves.
As you know, I’m struggling with slow thyroid and low progesterone levels, and this is why I aim for at least 75 grams protein daily. I take my protein mostly from beans, chickpeas, peas, lentil and quinoa but also from pastured eggs and natural yogurt.
Our bodies need protein to produce hormones, but not all the proteins are the same, some actually causing inflammation and disruptions of estrogen production. You can check this very interesting article by Sara Gottfried M.D. posted on MBG website, on the importance of protein for a balanced hormone production.
To make my salads satiating, I always add a complete protein such as quinoa or pastured eggs, or make a combination of seeds, beans of chickpeas and have it with a rye flour cracker. This will make the salad filling and more nutrient-dense and also helps me achieve the goal of having protein included in every meal of the day.
This salad is a delicious combination of textures, comes with my favorite aromatic herb blend: basil and oregano, mixes quinoa with roasted summer veggies and if you want to, you can add a bit of crumbled feta cheese for some creaminess and more intense taste. I kept mine vegan.
If you’re looking for more summer recipes inspiration, make sure you check my Farro Salad with Grilled Veggies, my Falafel Sandwich with Yogurt Tahini Sauce, or the Vegan Pasta Salad, The Very Green Version.
- 1 cup cooked quinoa (I used black quinoa, but any variety is fine)
- 2 medium yellow tomatoes, diced
- 5-7 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
- 1 large eggplant, cut into small cubes
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into medium pieces
- 1 yellow onion, cut into medium pieces
- 1 cucumber, diced
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 5-6 fresh basil leaves
- 5-6 fresh oregano leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ tsp organic raw honey (or pure maple syrup for the vegan version)
- 1 tbsp lightly toasted pine nuts
- Preheat the oven to 175C/346F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, add the eggplant, bell pepper and onion, drizzle with olive oil (about 1 tbsp), season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
- Roast for 20 minutes, then remove the veggies from the oven and set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl combine the quinoa, cucumber, diced tomatoes, garlic cloves, aromatic herbs, roasted veggies and toss.
- Add the rest of the olive oil, lemon juice, honey and vinegar, and mix to combine.
- Top with toasted pine nuts and serve.