End-of-Summer Mediterranean Pesto Grain Salad

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Summer’s now officially over, but you can capture some last rays of sunshine in the bright tastes of this grain salad, which combines the bold flavors of pesto with the sweetness of summer tomatoes and the creaminess of cannellini beans.

But don’t stop there– use this recipe as a template.  Learning how to improvise a grain salad is a good way to multiply your mealtime options, eat the best of what’s in season, and reduce food waste.  It also happens to be National Whole Grains Month, so why not get acquainted with some less familiar grains? If I had to pick a favorite, it would be farro.  I also enjoy quinoa, bulgur, and different varieties of rice, including black and red rice.  Once you cook and cool any of these, you’re ready to build a grain salad.  Just follow the basic formula:

Basic Grain Salad Formula= grains + leafy greens + lemon or vinegar + olive oil +herbs + spices + nuts/seeds + (optional) something creamy (avocado, beans or cheese)

I have taught this salad, using quinoa instead of farro as pictured (because it is quicker to cook and gluten-free), in both the Thrive Kitchen and Lunch with Linda, in my cooking series for my medical colleagues.  It’s a good recipe to learn not only because it’s simple and is a template for many more fine meals, but because it combines elements of two of the healthiest diets/eating patterns, the Mediterranean Diet and the Plant Based Diet.  Both of these diets are rich in vegetables and whole grains, and both are heart healthy and cancer-preventing.  To your health!

Mediterranean Pesto Quinoa Salad      

A grain salad is a versatile, portable, make ahead meal.  Quinoa is quick cooking and a complete protein.  This recipe is a winning combination of contrasting flavors and textures, but you can use this as a template to make a grain salad with whatever you have on hand.  Pro tip: make enough quinoa for the week and store it unseasoned, then add fresh ingredients for each meal.

Makes 6 servings


For the pesto (makes 1 cup)

1 cup packed kale leaves, stems removed

1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves

2 T toasted walnuts

1/2 tsp salt

2 T extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:

3 c cooked quinoa (from one cup dry cooked in 2 cups water)

1 c arugula or baby kale (if using kale, roughly chopped)

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise

1 cup no salt added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

Optional: chili flakes


  1. Place raw quinoa and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil, uncovered. Then lower heat to low and simmer, covered, until all of the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes.  When done, fluff with fork.
  2. Meanwhile, make the pesto: place all pesto ingredients into a food processor and process until you have a coarse paste. Adjust texture with additional olive oil, if needed, and adjust salt to taste.
  3. Put cooked quinoa in a large bowl. Add1/2 cup pesto and stir until well combined.  Add additional pesto to taste.
  4. Add greens, beans, and walnuts, and toss to combine. Adjust salt to taste.
  5. Add sliced cherry tomatoes and chili flakes to taste, if desired, and combine. Enjoy hot, warm or cold.

Nutrients per serving:  280 calories Carbohydrate 33 g, Dietary Fiber 6 g, Fat: 15 g, Protein 9 g, Sodium 230 mg, Sugar 2 g (added 0 g)


If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, come and cook with me in the Thrive Kitchen at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco! Email SFHealthEd@kp.org or call 415-833-3450 for more information. And please stay in touch (and give me a LIKE) for more events, nutrition articles and recipes on my Facebook page: www.Facebook.com/TheDoctorsSpicebox. To your health!