warm quinoa salad with grilled chicken, mozzarella, tomato and basil

This light and delicious salad is easy to assemble and you can scale the amount that you make to feed a crowd. Quinoa is a gluten-free grain that is a rich source of protein and fiber. In this dish, it soaks up the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and juice from the chicken to create a flavorful backdrop for the other ingredients. You could also make this dish vegetarian by swapping out the chicken for chickpeas or simply leaving out the chicken. If you have time, marinate the mozzarella pieces overnight in olive oil, salt and pepper. I would recommend pairing this dish with a light red wine such as a Pinot Noir.


  • White quinoa (2 cups)

  • Water (4 cups)

  • Olive oil (4 tablespoons total; 2 tablespoons for cooking quinoa plus 2 tablespoons for dressing)

  • Salt (2 teaspoons total; 1 teaspoon for cooking quinoa plus 1 teaspoon to season)

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 whole)

  • Cucumber (1 whole, chopped into bite-sized pieces; I prefer the English cucumbers with softer skin)

  • Baby tomatoes (2 cups, each tomato cut in half)

  • Mozzarella (2 cups, bite-sized pieces)

  • Mixed greens (2 cups)

  • Basil (1 cup, roughly chopped)

  • Toasted pine nuts (1/2 cup)

  • Balsamic vinegar (2 teaspoons)

  • Ground black pepper (1 teaspoon)


  1. Place the quinoa, water, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 10 to 12 minutes. 

  2. Once the quinoa is cooked, remove from heat and let cool.

  3. Unwrap the chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  4. Spray an indoor oven-safe grill pan with cooking spray and heat on the stove. Place the chicken breasts on the hot grill pan. 

  5. Flip the chicken breasts after about 4 minutes on the first side; cook on the second side for about 2 minutes.

  6. Move the grill pan to the oven to finish cooking the chicken, about 20 minutes. Let rest on a cutting board once done cooking.

  7. While the chicken is baking, prepare the other ingredients. Chop the cucumber, baby tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

  8. Toast the pine nuts in a skillet on the stove if not already pre-toasted.

  9. Once the chicken breasts have cooled, chop into bite-sized pieces.

  10. To assemble, mix the quinoa, chicken, vegetables and pine nuts with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, balsalmic vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of ground pepper. Taste to ensure adequate seasoning.