Herbed Feta-Lentil Quinoa Salad

If there’s one thing I have to say about fresh herbs, it’s that they transform any dish. If there’s another thing I have to say about fresh herbs, it’s that they go bad really fast… like blink-of-an-eye fast, and you’ll curse the herb gods as you throw out that bunch of browned basil that was so tantalizingly fragrant mere days ago. That’s why it’s so important to have a go-to recipe that’s absolutely packed with herbs for those days when you realize that your mint and your dill (and your cilantro and your thyme) are about to kick the bucket. 

I had dill, mint, and basil on hand today, so this salad got a bit of a Mediterranean twist, but if you have different herbs on hand, adjust the dressing and add-ins accordingly. For example, fresh tarragon and oregano might go well with green olives and ribbons of prosciutto. Let the herbs lead you!

For the salad:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • approx. 1/3 package Trader Joe’s precooked lentils, or 1/2 cup cooked lentils
  • 1 small bunch fresh mint
  • 1 small bunch fresh dill
  • small handful fresh basil leaves
  • approx. 1 cup feta cheese cubes

For the dressing:

  • 2 parts olive oil
  • 1 part balsamic vinegar
  • generous squeeze of honey
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (mine were all tiny, so I used 4)
  • salt and pepper

Bring the quinoa and 2 cups of water to a boil, then simmer, covered, until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy (about 10-15 minutes). Tip: quinoa is done when you see that little translucent ring around each grain. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa cool.

While you’re letting the quinoa cool, whip up your dressing. Honestly, my dressing was a little boring—a typical olive oil-balsamic vinaigrette. If I’d had more interesting ingredients, I really would have preferred something with a wilder flavor, and I would have blended up some fresh basil into the dressing, too, if I’d had extra. Go crazy with this! Quinoa can be pretty bland, so don’t be afraid to punch it up.

Head back over to the cooled quinoa, and add your lentils (or chickpeas or other beans) according to your preferred ratio. I’m not a huge beans fan, so I opted for more quinoa, less lentil, but a 1:1 ratio would be delicious, too.

Chop up those fresh, delicious herbs.

Stir them gently into the salad, then add the feta cheese.

This salad makes a great summery side dish, but it’s so packed with protein that you can easily treat it as a main dish, too. Next time I make it, I’m definitely going to add cucumber chunks and pomegranate seeds to emphasize the Mediterranean flavors. Enjoy!

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