My favorite flavor profile is that of Mediterranean cuisine. Some of my favorite foods are Syrian and Lebanese style shawarma, falafel, hummus, and similar dishes. I think it’s a combination of slightly spicy seasonings, generous portions of carbs, and large amounts of vegetables. This Mediterranean quinoa kale salad with creamy tahini dressing highlights each of those: lightly spiced, savory, and full of vegetables and complex carbs.
Along with a mouth-watering flavor salad is brimming with nutritional goodness:
- Beets contain fiber and numerous vitamins and minerals, but most notably for endurance athletes, beets contain inorganic nitrate. Multiple studies indicate that the nitrate in beets offers health benefits, including lower blood pressure, and performance benefits, such as improved endurance in time trials.
- Red peppers are a bountiful source of vitamin A and vitamin C, amongst other nutrients.
- Quinoa is a rich source of complex carbohydrates and a complete protein.
- Kale provides vitamin A, calcium, vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Kale also contains many antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which will promote both better overall health and better recovery after a workout.
- Tahini is a healthy fat made from ground sesame seeds. Tahini contains polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which make it easier for your body to absorb all of the nutrients in the vegetables.
- Turmeric promotes better recovery with its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. If there’s one spice that can actually improve your running, it’s turmeric.
Now, you may be looking at this recipe and dismissing it: kale can be bitter, turmeric sounds as if it’s incredibly spicy, and quinoa tastes like dirt. A few key steps in the recipe eliminate any bitterness. The kale is massaged until soft, which breaks down the enzymes that create a bitter flavor (this also makes it easier to digest). Rinsing the quinoa removes the earthy flavor. And don’t fret about the turmeric – it’s actually a mild spice! If plain yellow mustard isn’t too spicy for you, neither will turmeric – yellow mustard is seasoned with turmeric.
Of course, a plate full of vegetables without any flavor and texture would be boring. The turmeric and Greek seasoning add a vibrant flavor to the vegetables. Sunflower seeds add a satisfying crunch, red onion enhances the umami flavor, and a spritz of lemon juice brightens the dish.
For quinoa, I always follow this recipe. It’s foolproof and the combination of rinsing the quinoa and cooking it in chicken stock renders a rich, savory quinoa – not a mushy, dirt-tasting quinoa. I like to cook up a large batch at the start of the week and store it in the fridge.
This salad can be adapted to create a heartier meal: serve with chicken or chickpeas for extra protein or roast yellow or sweet potatoes with the vegetables for more carbohydrates.
A final note: I measure all of my spices by pinches, because who really takes the time to measure out ¼ teaspoon when cooking? Such precision is unnecessary. (Baking, of course, is a different story.)
- 2 golden beets
- 1 large red pepper
- 2-3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pinch of turmeric
- 2 pinches of Greek seasoning*
- 1 generous pinch of salt
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 3-5 teaspoons of water (may need more or less, depending on the consistency of your tahini)
- Juice of half a small lemon
- Pinch of garlic powder
- Black pepper, to taste
- 1 large bunch of kale (~2 cups loosely packed)
- 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- 1-2 tablespoons diced red onion
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
- Heat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the stems and chop the beet and red pepper into equally sized pieces. Toss with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil, salt, turmeric, and Greek seasoning, and place in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet or pan. Roast for 25-30 minutes.
- When the vegetables are done, remove the kale from the stems, wash it, and shake off the excess water. Add a small amount (~1 teaspoon) of olive of and a pinch of salt, and massage for 2-3 minutes or until soft and reduced in size.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini and lemon juice. Add the water 1 teaspoon at a time and whisk in, adding water until the dressing reaches the desired consistency. Stir in a pinch of garlic powder and a few generous grinds of black pepper.
- In a large bowl, toss together the kale, quinoa, and tahini dressing. Add the roasted vegetables, diced red onion, and sunflower seeds and toss to combine.
- Divide and serve immediately, or store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- *If you don't have Greek seasoning, use a sprinkle of dill, oregano, basil, rosemary, and thyme.
Now I’m really craving some pita and hummus or shawarma to go along with this salad!
What foods are you craving right now?
What cuisine is your favorite?