We just celebrated my gram’s 76th birthday. It was so fun! It’s easy to go all out for someone who has spared nothing to help others accomplish their dreams. She means a lot to me, and everyone she meets has felt her generosity and beautiful spirit. This year the celebration was a late lunch. We filled the house and patio with festive hues of pink (her favorite color) and filled the tables with snacks, sweets and hearty foods. Mommie asked me to make a cool salad to go along with the array of veggies, meats and breads. She specifically asked me to make a pasta salad, but I like to color outside the lines. I knew that sautéed veggies and baked chicken would go well with a Mediterranean inspired salad, so I had that in mind with a new twist. Although quinoa has it’s roots in South America, the salad’s deliciousness was kicked up a notch with this healthful ancient grain. This dish will be a hit with many guests because it is refreshing, yet filling. It has seafood in every bite, and the quinoa is nutritious and gluten-free. I’ve designed this dish to feed 30 guests. You may make portions smaller or larger according to your needs. It can also stand alone as a one-dish meal.
Any salt-free seasoning blend (Mrs. Dash, 21 seasoning, etc)
1-2 large English cucumbers, washed, halved and seeded
1 cup of pitted Kalamata olives
Extra virgin olive oil
½ cup crumbled feta (I used herb feta)
1 cup fresh Italian parsley
1 package of quinoa (11 servings. I used a tricolor quinoa for an extra dimension of color)
½ large red onion, minced
1 lb of medium shrimp
1lb bag of mixed seafood (such as scallops, calamari and shrimp, I bought from Trader Joe’s)
3 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 lb baby spinach
Cook quinoa according to directions. I used the microwave directions to free up stovetop space. Allow it to cool down once cooked.
On a large cutting board, cut halved cucumbers into thinly sliced pieces. Next, roughly chop tomatoes and add all contents to a large mixing bowl along with minced onion.
In a large skillet, saute seafood, if raw. You have the option of unthawing already cooked seafood as well. You may need to break it up, since it is a large quantity. On medium high, heat 1 TBSP olive oil. Once heated, add seafood and toss in 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar and a dash of sea salt. Cook for about 3-5 minutes. Shrimp should become translucent and begin to turn pink. Remove from heat, and allow to cool.
Saute baby spinach in about 1 to 2 tsp oil with sea salt and salt free seasoning. Should begin to wilt after 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl mix quinoa, olives, seafood, vegetables and about half the parsley.
Dressing: in a small bowl add 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar, the juice of 1/2 lemon, a dash of sea salt, and 1 TBSP dry oregano. Whisk together.
Toss salad with dressing and place salad in its proper serving container.
Sprinkle more salt free seasoning over the salad, sprinkle feta over the top, then add 1 cup of roughly chopped parsley over the top for garnish.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
Salad before adding to serving container and topping with feta.