Green or Grain?

According to the Food Channel, one of the top salad trends of 2015 skips the green all together and instead has…grains? Have you ever heard of freekeh? What about spelt, faro or most recognizably, quinoa? If you’re like me, you probably don’t even know how to begin trying to say those, let alone know what they are.

So I went searching and I found out that all of these are types of grains and seeds that are now being used as salads, believe it or not. The appeal of grains is that they are extremely high in protein and unsaturated fats and low in carbohydrates, which makes them incredibly good for you. WebMD explains that it’s important to get a good amount of protein in your diet because your body has no way to store it, but it needs a lot of it to repair cells. As protein is called a “macronutrient” because the body needs so much of it, quinoa and other grains have earned the designation of “super food” because of their numerous health benefits.

Chefs and restaurants across the country have started using grains regularly in their menus in the form of wraps, sliders, muffins, salads and more. Grain salad is an entirely new category of salad and is proving to be just as expansive as traditional salads made from lettuce. Grain salad recipes range from hearty dishes with chicken to light and zesty lemon salads and everywhere in between.

Here is one of my personal favorites from

It’s an Italian Quinoa Salad with cucumber. Aside from sounding delicious, it only has seven ingredients and three steps, so it’s perfect for all of the other kitchen novices such as myself.


  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • ½ cup feta cheese
  • ¼ red onion
  • ¾ cup Italian salad dressing

First boil the quinoa in water. Make sure you follow the measurements on this one because you don’t want any water causing your quinoa to be soggy. I boiled mine for about 20 minutes over medium high heat. Once the quinoa is cooked, set it in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Next, dice your tomato, cucumber and red onion, mix in a bowl and set aside. 

Finally, mix together with your quinoa and top with the Italian dressing and crumbled feta. Easy enough right? 

A couple of final tips:

     1. In the future I would probably add some grilled chicken or shrimp to this one for a heartier meal.
     2. Be prepared to have quinoa all over your kitchen. Those grains, while delicious, are stickier than they look!

Now you’re ready to experiment with the grain salad trend. Enjoy!


Caitlin Hutchinson

Association for Dressings & Sauces