Believe it or not, salads are one of my favorite foods; I actually consider them a food group all their own. I adore salads, what’s not to love? They can be extremely healthy for you but you can always throw in salty, shredded cheeses and crispy, crumbled bacon to take it down a notch - or up a notch... however you want to look at it ;)
Plus, salads go with everything! I mean, seriously, salads pair well with fish, chicken, steak, pork, more veggies, tofu, rice, beans, pasta, you name it!! They are quick and easy to whip up (most of the time) and last for a few days, making mid-week meals a breeze. They are nearly as perfect as chocolate… not quite though, just to be clear.
The one problem with salads is they are easy to screw up... To me, there are two things you need for a perfect salad:
- The perfect combination of ingredients. You can’t just throw a bunch of mumble-jumble into a bowl and call it good. You need something green, you need a grain, something crunchy and something softer in texture, you need something sweet and something saltier, you need a protein, and then there are all those fun little extras (think seeds, nuts, and pickled sides). Williams Sonoma offers an awesome chart outlying so many your options; this way you can think less and eat more!
- You need to have lavish amounts of the good stuff!! It is the worst, the absolute worst, when you order a salad and are basically handed a bowl of greens or a bowl of grains. In my world, the greens and grains are simply a carrier for all the other goodies. I want to have ample amounts of tomatoes, apples, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, whatever it may be!! So don’t be afraid to load up your salads – the whole point is to have all those delightful extras in every single bite :)
That being said, today I present to you Feta & Chickpea Quinoa Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing. This was the most popular salad at RylieCakes Bakery; it was adored by veggie and meat lovers alike and gobbled up by the pickiest of eaters. The salad has an earthy, spicy undertone, which is brightened up by a splash of lime juice and sweetened with honey. All the fresh veggies add the perfect amount of crunch and the feta seriously seals the deal, bringing a tangy, saltiness to each bite. Honestly, the salad is so scrumptious on its own the dressing isn’t really needed…
However, the Cilantro-Lime Dressing is too good to pass up!! Once you make it, you'll never stop!! It is creamy and loaded with cilantro, bringing an uber fresh taste to the table. Whether you put the dressing on your Feta & Chickpea Quinoa Salad or not, it is bound to get eaten! I recommend using it on greens, grains, sandwiches, tacos, as a marinade, or just drizzled on top of grilled chicken or fish. This Cilantro-Lime Dressing is a miracle sauce and worthwhile to always have on hand!
A few tips before you dig in:
- In a perfect world, I’d use fresh lime juice whenever I’m cooking. However, limes aren’t always in season and they aren’t always in my house! Therefore, Nellie and Joe's Key Lime Juice is my go-to and is ALWAYS in my house. It is a staple around here – it is tangy, tart, and chalk full of that lime flavor we love!! It works great in salads, soups, dressings, baking, and is perfect for cocktail creations.
- I buy Pasture of Eden’s Feta at Trader Joe’s. It is absolutely mouth-watering. It is creamy, salty, and has that tangy taste unique to Feta. I don’t know what else to say, it’s just perfect!
- I love to cook my quinoa in broth rather than just plain water. I used Better than Bouillon Roasted Garlic Broth in this recipe and it gave the quinoa an exceptional flavor!!
- For the dressing, when measuring my cilantro, I always include the stems. The stems have SO MUCH flavor, I’d hate for you to miss out on it! Plus, it all gets chopped up in the food processor anyway so know one will ever know.
- This is a life hack from my kitchen to yours – invest in a kitchen scale! Weighing your ingredients rather than measuring them cup for cup is much easier and far more accurate. You never lose count of how many teaspoons or cups you are on; all you have to do is make one precise measurement. Having this accuracy in your cooking, and especially in your baking, will give you consistent results every time! It’s a win-win no matter how you look at it!
All right, I think I’ve given you everything you need to make the most marvelous, mouth-watering Feta & Chickpea Quinoa Salad the world has ever seen! Good luck and don’t forget to share (@ryliecakesgf, #ryliecakesrecipes), I’d love to see your creations!!
Lick the Bowl - You Only Live Once,
(Yield: Approximately 60oz - think  4oz side servings or  12oz meals)
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2.3 oz red onion, finely diced
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 2 oz lime juice
- 1 oz olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp honey
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 (15oz) can of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
- 6 oz feta cheese, crumbled
- 0.35 oz (½ cup) fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 orange bell pepper, medium diced
- 1 avocado
- Cook quinoa according to package. Once cooked, remove from heat and let cool.
- Combine red onion, garlic, lime juice, olive oil, cumin, salt, pepper, and honey in a large bowl; whisk together thoroughly. Taste test and season more if desired.
- Add tomatoes, chickpeas, feta, cilantro, bell pepper, and cooled quinoa. Fold to combine.
- Top with slices of avocado, either on each portion or on the salad as a whole.
- Serve with Cilantro-Lime Dressing on the side and remember to savor every fantastically fresh, crunchy, slightly spicy, and a little bit salty bite!
- 3 cups packed cilantro
- 10 oz Fage (greek yogurt)
- 4 Tbsp lime juice
- 2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 4 oz olive oil
- 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 3 Tbsp honey
- Puree all ingredients in food processor or Vitamix Blender until smooth.
- Taste test and further season if needed.
- I highly recommend chilling the dressing overnight to allow the flavors to develop and meld together.