In the last few years, Quinoa has become the “It Girl” of the food world–popping up in so many restaurants, magazines, books and blogs you’d think its last name was Kardashian. (Don’t tell Bravo…or Andy Cohen will give it its own show.)

Versatile, easy to make and loaded with protein and other valuable disease and inflammation-fighting nutrients, this grain-like seed of an ancient leafy Peruvian plant is a great addition to your menus. But with about 220 calories a cooked cup, it probably has more calories anyone who’s trying to lose weight (or keep it off) wants in a side dish.

But here’s a quick and easy way to get the benefits of this Dr. Oz endorsed fat fighting super food for a third of the calories and more taste and texture: Skinny Quinoa with Tomatoes, Cukes, Olives and Herbs.

By mixing 1 part quinoa with two parts of the tasty veggies and herbs found in Greek salads, you can even add feta and a few nuts and have a dish that’s both rich and skinny…(Hmmm, maybe this dish should end up on Bravo…)


By the way, since The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization has proclaimed 2013 as “The International Year of the Quinoa,” you might want to get on this right away…

(I’ll let you know when Rite-Aid and Target have the greeting cards on the shelves…:)


(Cooks note: For the best taste, rinse quinoa through a strainer to remove the bitter tasting saponins that naturally occur to keep insects at bay.)

1 1/2 c quinoa, rinsed

3 c water

1/2 t salt

1 lb grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or diced (about 4 cups)

4 Persian cucumbers, cut in half moons or diced (about 4 cups)

1 large garlic clove, minced or grated

1/2 c pitted Kalamata olives, sliced

grategarlic1/4 c red onion or shallot, chopped fine

1 big handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped

2 T chopped parsley

1 T red wine, balsamic, or sherry vinegar

1 T good olive oil (I like Greek olive oil for this because of its strong flavor.)

Fresh lemon juice to taste

1/4 c Feta cheese (optional, but recommended)

1 T toasted pine nuts, pepitas, or sunflower seeds (optional)


Place the rinsed quinoa, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a full boil for 2 minutes. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 18-20 minutes.  Stir and fluff with a fork 2 minutes more or until all moisture has evaporated. Let it cool a bit in the hot pan to further reduce moisture, fluffing now and then with a fork.


While the quinoa is cooking, chop the tomatoes and cucumbers, sprinkling each with salt and pepper before adding to a serving bowl. (Sprinkling the veggies with salt this way helps release juices. If serving right away you can leave them in to add flavor to the final dish.  If not, drain off so the quinoa doesn’t become mushy the next day.)

Add the garlic, olives, onion (or shallot), basil, parsley, vinegar and olive oil.  Stir and let rest while the quinoa cools and dries out a bit more.

Toss the quinoa with the veggies and herbs and give it all a good squeeze of fresh lemon. Stir and taste for seasonings, adding just a scant bit more salt if necessary.

(Don’t overdo it, the salt you’ve added in the earlier steps should be enough once the dish sits.)

Before serving, either warm or cold, add the feta cheese to add more flavor and visual appeal.


If you don’t care for cucumbers, use leftover grilled zucchini. Or, for added crunch, toss in some chopped celery.

If you don’t like olives, capers are always an option that will add a salty punch.


If you serve this as a side dish one night, you can always add some freshly grilled or sauteed shrimp to make it into a satisfying entree.

You can even quickly thaw some frozen, peeled and cooked cocktail shrimp or add some leftover roasted chicken and have a full a meal in minutes!

Leave a Comment