Lemon Basil Quinoa Salad

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My local grocery store sells the most delicious quinoa salad in the deli case. It has quinoa, tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, artichoke hearts, and red onions, all mixed together with a mildly sweet lemon basil dressing. The salad is light and refreshing and has a great combination of sweet and savory flavors. I took one bite and I immediately started thinking about how I could recreate this salad at home.

Lemon Basil Quinoa Salad

I served this salad at my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner last night, and it was a big success! The bowl was practically scraped clean, but I managed to save some leftovers, which I had for lunch today, topped with some left-over salmon (yum!).

I omitted the artichoke hearts and red onions from my recipe, since they are not part of my low FODMAP diet, but feel free to add them to your salad, if you like. You can adjust the ingredients and quantities shown in my recipe below, but be sure to only use fresh basil. I had some trouble finding fresh basil in the grocery store, so I went to my local nursery and bought a basil plant for about the same price I would pay for a handful of basil as the grocery store. Now I can plant my basil plant and have fresh basil all summer long!

The quinoa will need time to cool in the fridge, so be sure to cook the quinoa the day before, or at least a few hours before you plan on serving the salad. This recipe will serve about 6-8 as a side dish.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
1 container of grape tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/3 cup feta cheese
1 tablespoon sliced green onions
2 lemons, juiced (approximately 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste

To prepare the quinoa, first add the quinoa to a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly under cold water to remove the bitter coating. Add the quinoa to a large saucepan or deep skillet (make sure it has a lid). Add 3 cups of water to the quinoa and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. I usually stir it once or twice while it’s cooking and check the water level. Burnt quinoa doesn’t taste good (don’t ask me how I know).

Once the quinoa is cooked, let cool for 30 minutes, then transfer to a mixing bowl and place it in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight.

To prepare the salad, remove the quinoa from the fridge (the quinoa should be cold), and add the tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, and green onions. Gently stir to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, maple syrup, fresh basil, and salt and pepper. Pour into the bowl with the quinoa and gently stir until thoroughly coated with the dressing. Have a taste and add additional salt and pepper, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Dad’s Easy Mediterranean Chicken

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My dad recently sent me this chicken recipe, which he says received rave-reviews from his dinner guests. Of course I had to try it, and I have to agree – this is one tasty dish! It is full of flavor . . . actually, I’ll let my dad describe it to you . . .

“This recipe offers an exotic blend of flavors, orchestrated by the turmeric, that will appeal to adults, but probably not children. It assumes a Dutch oven but will work just as well in a crock pot or other lidded vessel. In that case, do the initial sauteing in a frying pan and transfer to the final cook pot.”

I altered his recipe slightly to work with the ingredients on hand, but the essential ingredients and flavors are the same.

Ingredients
3/4 cup chopped onion
8 oz package mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic minced
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2/3 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes (or whole cherry tomatoes)
1 14oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup artichoke hearts, cut into bite-size pieces (canned or marinated)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
Olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven, sauté the onions and mushrooms in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, until the onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1-2 minutes. Remove the contents from the pan and set aside. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the chicken thighs for about 2-3 minutes per side. Add salt and pepper as desired. Remove browned thighs from the pan if you need more room for the un-browned ones, and add more oil as needed.

Once all the thighs are brown, add them back to the pan along with onion and mushroom mixture and all other ingredients. Lightly stir to combine. Bring to a gentle boil, and then reduce heat to simmer (uncovered).

My dad likes to simmer the mixture for 2-3 hours until the mixture has a meat sauce consistency with all the ingredients well ‘blended’. He also suggested serving it after 40-60 minutes of simmering, at which point the thighs will still be intact (which is what I did). Serve over rice.

Thanks for the recipe Dad!

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Greek Pasta Salad with Sausage

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I guess I could call this a Mediterranean Pasta Salad since it has Greek and Italian ingredients, but the name isn’t as important as the taste (which is great, by the way!). Tender pasta mingles with olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, chickpeas, and Italian sausage for a main dish salad full of flavor and interesting textures. Be sure to make the pasta salad (not the sausage) in advance, so the flavors have time to develop. 

Ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 pound corkscrew pasta, cooked and cooled
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can black olives, roughly chopped
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup diced red onion
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 package Italian sausage

Wisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, oregano, sugar, and ground pepper in a large bowl. Add the cooked pasta, garbanzo beans, olives, feta, red onion, and tomatoes, and stir gently to combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Add the Italian sausage to a large, cold skillet and add 1/2 cup of water. Cover and place over medium-low heat. Simmer until the water evaporates, and then remove the lid. Brown the sausage, turning frequently, until the sausage is cooked through.

Let the sausage cool slightly, and then cut into slices. To serve, fill bowls with the cold pasta salad, and place sausage slices over the top.

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