When I was little I loved couscous. The simple, nutty taste was great with everything, yet we rarely ate it at my house. Then, when in second grade, my youngest brother was diagnosed with celiac disease, couscous left the house. For quite a while, our staples were rice and potatoes, in some form or another. Let me tell you that both of these can get boring fast. Eventually, rice pasta became more readily available, then corn pasta and others flowed in too. Gluten-free became a large section of the store and even Betty Crocker boxed mixes could be bought gluten-free. This response came in part because of families like mine who have a disease, and people who have latched on to gluten-free as a new diet.
Along, with all these products came quinoa. Now, if you go gluten-free because you believe it is healthier (and lots of evidence points in this direction) it isn’t the best idea to eat gluten-free cookies and crackers and pre-packaged things. Once in a while they taste all right, but that is often at one’s own cost. To make some of these things taste good, many bad oils and additions are put in, that really take away from the benefits of a gluten-free diet. You’re best served to use some of the other grains and flours that are gluten-free and make something all on your own. Quinoa is one of those wonderful grains.
When I was first introduced to quinoa, I had it plain, and wasn’t all that fond of it. But with some olive oil, and lemon juice, and a few other additions, it takes wonderful, almost like couscous! The texture is very similar, and I believe it is much better for you. It has lots of fiber and protein, something many prepackaged gluten-free products lack.
This salad is one of the many ways you can eat quinoa. In a recent Living Without magazine article I read about different ways to eat some new and interesting grains for breakfast. Quinoa could even be a breakfast food! This salad has influences from across the mediterranean; Italy, Greece, Spain, and the middle east. In this case it doesn’t mean much, as I am relying on the fact there there is lots of crossover. I added tahini to roasted eggplant (baba ganoush), but balanced it with balsamic vinegar. I added roasted red peppers, olive oil, lots of garlic…Though I give specific ingredients, feel free to play around, omitting the tahini and added feta, or leaving it in and adding garbanzo beans. I have another really good recipe for a salad with quinoa that is quite similar to tabouli. So, have fun with quinoa! Make sure to rinse it before cooking, and cook it in broth or stock, preferably with lower sodium content.
Quinoa Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Eggplant, and Arugula
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth (preferably low-sodium)
1 medium sized globe eggplant
1 Tablespoon tahini
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large red bell peppers, cut in half and seeds removed
2 1/2 cups arugula or mixed greens, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Poke eggplant with tines of a fork and place on a baking sheet lined with tin-foil and greased lightly with olive oil. Place in oven on middle rack and cook for 1 hour, or until the eggplant is shriveling and soft. In the last half hour, place the peppers, cut side down, on the same pan to cook. Let them cook for about half an hour, or until tender, but not collapsed and only charring on the bottoms. Remove the eggplant to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Cut off the top and end of eggplant, and cut lengthwise. Remove the peel from both eggplants pieces (it should fall off pretty easily, you may need a knife to help in some places). Cut both pieces lengthwise into 1/2 thick strips, and then cut those strips in 1-inch long increments. Place in a bowl. Add the tahini, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil and stir.
Cut the peppers into strips and cut into pieces to add to the eggplant mixture.
Add 1 cup quinoa to the two cups broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes longer, or until all water seems to have evaporated. Add to the peppers and eggplant and stir well. Salt and pepper to taste.
Let chill in fridge until cool. Stir in the arugula and serve.