Olive-Quinoa Salad with Olive Shortbreads

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Some decisions in life are just no-brainers. Did I wish to get a second dog after Elsie? Uh-huh. Should I move in with the HH? Duh. Do I present at Nourished when asked? Uh, yeah. Will I accept when Ellen finally invites me onto her show? OF COURSE I WILL!! And when Casey of KitchenPLAY emails to see if I’d like to be part of the “Build a Better Salad” event featuring olives and olive oil, do I agree to create a recipe and blog about it? Well–talk about a no-brainer!

 

I was asked to develop a salad using olives and olive oil (see full disclosure at end of post) and was given carte blanche to create a recipe of entirely of my own choosing.

And let me tell you, I had a load of fun concocting this salad!

If you browse around my blog, you’ll likely pick up on the fact that I adore olives. I add them to pilafs and tagines; I bake them into breads; I purée them in soups; I scatter them over pizza; I toss them in pasta; and I often eat them just on their own. Green, black, cured, in brine–it’s all good! And anyone who’s familiar with the “Mediterranean Diet” knows that olives, with their high monounsaturated fat content, are extremely good for us. Besides the commonly-known benefits of reducing coronary heart disease and their anti-inflammatory properties, olives and olive oil also can help prevent a host of cancers, including breast, colon and prostate cancer. But most importantly, they simply taste delicious.

Because the HH and I already eat olives on a regular basis (on lazy weeknights, we’ll sometimes have what we’ve dubbed the “appetizer plate,” with various little bites, raw veggies, crackers and two bowls of olives–one green, one black–and make an entire meal of snacky foods), well, I wanted something different for this event. Musing on what kinds of food make me happy, I thought, “colorful.” I thought, “springy.” I thought, “quinoa.” And (of course) I thought, “baked goods.” How to combine them all together in one fabulous salad?

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This olive and quinoa salad just on its own is a like a sensory promise of springtime: light and fresh, with a clean, crisp dressing of fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, two long-time companions that complement each other perfectly. Matched with a hint of sweetness in the carrots, creaminess of avocado, crisp juiciness of cucumber and the subtle nuttiness of quinoa, the green olives in the salad contribute a piquant contrast to the background mosaic of grain and veggies. I loved how the tangy olives made their presence known in each bite.

As a foil to the light, mildly flavored salad, I envisioned some black olive shortbread with a pungent saltiness as the prominent taste. The tender, flaky wedges are slightly grainy and crisp on the edges, yet buttery from the natural oils of the olives and walnuts. I simply loved this shortbread, which would also work beautifully alongside a steaming bowl of tomato or mushroom soup.

As the weather warms and you begin to crave fresh, healthy foods, enjoy this salad at a springtime brunch, for a light luncheon or even as picnic fare.

Adding olives to your salad–well, it’s just a no-brainer.

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