Three of the show’s protagonists, Melanie, Joy, and Victoria, have just moved from Los Angeles to Cleveland. The girls bring their LA habits to Cleveland, one of which is extreme dieting.
In an early episode, we see the restrictive eating that’s part of everyday life for Melanie, Joy, and Victoria.
A few neighbors stop by and express their desire to learn the girls’ beauty secrets. When the subject of diet comes up, the girls reveal to their interested neighbors that the only thing they eat all day is a single salad.
The neighbors are immediately intrigued. One neighbor inquires as to the types of salads permitted on this diet:
“Cobb salad? Steak salad? Mexican salad with the edible bowl?”
The sassy, English-accented Joy incredulously responds that these calorie-laden salads most certainly aren’t permitted:
“You can’t just take an entire meal and slap the word ‘salad’ on it!”
For the rest of the episode, the running gag is “that’s what makes it a salad.” You can eat absolutely anything as long as it’s served over a bed of greens.
Because that’s what makes it a salad.
Quinoa Salad: a Salad and a Meal
The Hot in Cleveland ladies make a good point: many salads are loaded with junky calories. These salads aren’t healthy. You can’t eat a whole taco salad, complete with an edible bowl, and expect to feel healthy or lose weight.
But a salad doesn’t have to be rabbit food either.
My Quinoa Salad with Croutons and Champagne Vinaigrette is proof that a salad can be a healthy, delicious, and filling meal.
Loaded with quinoa, chickpeas, roasted asparagus and tomatoes, homemade croutons, and my champagne vinaigrette, this salad feels like the ultimate indulgence. But there’s no guilt involved. Every element of this quinoa salad is good for you.
(Just use self-control on the croutons.)
Make This Quinoa Salad
This quinoa salad is served over arugula. Because, after all, that’s what makes it a salad.
Enjoy it as a main course for a healthy, hearty salad any night of the week.
A Few Things!
The homemade champagne vinaigrette in this salad is my favorite dressing. But champagne vinegar can be difficult to find in the grocery store. Here’s my favorite champagne vinegar on Amazon [aff. link]. You can also find it in my Amazon store here.
A good olive oil is necessary for homemade dressings and sauces. I use PJ KABOS olive oil. It’s made in Greece by the Panagiotopoulos Family, using Greek Koroneiki olives from their own trees. You can find PJ KABOS olive oil on Amazon [aff. link], or in my Amazon store here.
Quinoa Salad with Croutons & Champagne Vinaigrette
For the quinoa:
- 1 ½ cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 3 cups vegetable broth, or water; vegetable broth will be more flavorful
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp garlic powder
For the champagne vinaigrette:
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 pinch of pepper
- ½ tsp rosemary, dried
- 1 ½ Tbsp Vegenaise, or mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp champagne vinegar
For the roasted veggies:
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 20 asparagus spheres, rough ends removed and cut to 1 ½ inch pieces
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
For the croutons:
- 3 cups cubed baguette or ciabatta bread, about ¾ inch cubes
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- Pinch of pepper
- ½ tsp rosemary, dried
- 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
- Arugula, 6-8 cups, or to preference
- Goat cheese, for sprinkling (omit to keep vegan)
Make the vinaigrette
- Add all the ingredients to a small bowl, and whisk until the dressing gets creamy and emulsifies. Vinaigrette is done.
- Note: if the Vegenaise/mayonnaise separates from the oil as it sits, simply whisk the vinaigrette together again.
Make the quinoa
- Add the quinoa, vegetable broth/water, salt, and garlic powder to a large soup pot.
- Bring it to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to low, and cook the quinoa uncovered for 27-32 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Stir occasionally.
- The quinoa is done when the liquid is absorbed. The quinoa should still have a bite to it and not be mushy.
- While the quinoa cooks, roast the veggies and bake the croutons.
Roast the veggies
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Place the tomatoes, asparagus, salt, and olive oil on a standard-sized baking sheet.
- With your hands, toss the olive oil and salt into the veggies until they are evenly coated. Now spread the veggies out evenly on the baking sheet. Make sure that the membrane side of each tomato is facing up.
- Roast the veggies at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.
- Veggies are done, set aside.
Bake the croutons
- While the veggies roast, prepare the croutons.
- On another standard-sized baking sheet, add the croutons, olive oil, salt, garlic powder, rosemary, and pepper.
- Toss it all together with your hands, then spread the croutons out evenly on the baking sheet so they’re not touching each other.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 5 min.
- Note: depending on the type of bread you use, you may want to bake the croutons longer, but start with five minutes, let them cool, and taste before baking longer. The croutons will get crispier as they cool.
Compile the salad
- Once the quinoa finishes cooking, add the drained chickpeas and ¼ cup vinaigrette to the quinoa. Stir to combine. Taste, and add more dressing, if desired.
- Next, add ½ of the roasted veggies to the quinoa. Gently fold them in.
Serve and enjoy!
- For each individual serving of the salad, spread out a bed of arugula. Layer the quinoa mixture on top. Layer additional roasted veggies over the quinoa, if desired.
- Sprinkle croutons over the veggies, and additional dressing, if desired. Top with goat cheese, if using (omit to keep vegan).
- Serve this salad as a stand alone meal for lunch or dinner.