The fresh air off the Pacific Ocean cleared not only our lungs but also our heads. Camped on a grassy hill above a sandy beach, glass of wine in hand, we relaxed and watched the waves roll in. That was Friday evening as we joined friends for a picnic dinner. I packed this healthy Greek pasta salad to share.
A friend invited us to join her and her husband in their new Friday evening ritual – a picnic dinner overlooking the ocean. They go to this jewel of a park not far from home and watch the sunset. What a perfect way to get out of the house and let the craziness of the week fade away. Let the weekend begin.
Fresh Greek Flavors
Filled with sweet grape tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, Greek Kalamata pitted olives, artichoke hearts, light feta cheese and a lemon-oregano vinaigrette, this pasta salad is flavor-packed and healthy. For the pasta, I use an organic corn-quinoa blend pasta that is gluten-free, so people with wheat allergies can enjoy it*. Although we don’t follow a gluten-free lifestyle, this pasta just tastes terrific. Plus it’s a beautiful, bright golden yellow color. To dress the salad, I make a light, lemony vinaigrette with fresh oregano and mint.
If you are not familiar with quinoa, it’s considered The Mother Grain of the Inca Indians. Quinoa is grown high in the rugged Andes mountains of Peru and is an excellent high-protein, gluten-free grain to incorporate into any healthy diet.
The pasta I use is a corn-quinoa blend made by Ancient Harvest. Check out their website for information about quinoa. Being a blend, I searched for the corn-quinoa ratio and found it’s not something they share. The good thing is since it’s organic, the corn is non-GMO. I cooked my pasta for 9 minutes, then rinsed in cool water and tossed with a little of the vinaigrette.
You can also use a whole wheat elbow or fusilli pasta for this recipe. The brand I prefer for organic whole wheat pasta is DeLallo, available at many grocery stores or online.
Complete the Picnic Plan
To transport, I packed my salad in 4 individual containers with tight fitting lids. That way each person had their own portion ready to enjoy and the containers fit easily into my picnic basket. I like the OXO containers because their tops do not leak and they are BPA-free. The 30 ounce rectangular size worked great. Pack extra vinaigrette in a smaller container.
For a more substantial dinner, I packed skewers of grilled shrimp. I grilled them at home just before we left, wrapped them in aluminum foil, then plastic wrap to transport. Grilled chicken would be another great option. Both can be served cool or chilled.
To start your picnic, make homemade hummus. My recipe has lemon and cumin for lots of flavor. It’s easy to make in a food processor. Serve with raw assorted veggies, again easy to pack. To end the meal on a sweet note, pack fresh strawberries and a little dark chocolate to nibble on. Only toothpicks and fingers are required. For an alternative beverage to wine, try homemade lemonade or iced tea and always take water.
Pack plenty of napkins, recyclable or reusable utensils and cups, folding beach chairs or a blanket to sit on, a jacket if it’s going to get cool, something to carry trash home, and maybe a flashlight if you are staying until dark.
Whether you are picnicking in your back yard, at a park or at the beach, this Greek Pasta Salad is good to have in your recipe arsenal as we head into Memorial Day weekend and other fun-filled summer opportunities for getting outside and enjoying.
Greek Pasta Salad
Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 if just a side
- 4 tablespoons of good quality olive oil (I like to use lemon)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh finely chopped oregano
- 1 tablespoon fresh finely chopped mint
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounces (227grams) elbow or fusilli pasta, gluten-free corn-quinoa blend or whole wheat
- 3-4 small Persian cucumbers, quartered and diced
- 18 grape tomatoes, halved
- 4-6 ounces light feta cheese, cubed small
- 20 Greek Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 1 15 ounce (397 grams) can small artichoke hearts packed in water (not oil), drained and halved
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives, optional
- First make the vinaigrette by whisking all ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and add additional lemon juice or oil, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a full boil. Add a tablespoon of salt, then add the pasta. Cook according to package directions (I cook quinoa pasta the full 9 minutes). Drain and toss with a little vinaigrette. When the pasta is cool, add the cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, olives, artichoke hearts and chives (if using). Toss with another tablespoon or two of the vinaigrette. Chill until ready to eat.
Other Helpful Links:
How to pack a safe picnic from My Recipes
How to pack the perfect picnic, from eHowFood
Pack the perfect picnic basket, from Organic Authority
OXO container set on Amazon
Subscribe via RSS or
This post contains links to Affiliate Programs, where I may receive a small commission for any purchases.