Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Quinoa Mediterranean Salad

The husband has a good knack of fixing quick salads and light meals. He prefers not to go by the book, likes quick and fast meals preferably with Chicken/ Seafood, etc. We cook together whenever opportunity strikes and more often than not I am amazed at the way he puts together a Salad with all the good stuff or a light dish comprising of vegetables and chicken/ shrimps/ fish, etc. 

I got the motivation to try different approaches to light meals from him. It takes a lot of discipline especially if you are a foodie like me. But hey, nothing ever came easy to anyone especially when your goals were tough! He has an adventurous palate and the flavors range anywhere from spicy, sour to bit sweet which is very unlike my preferred flavors of savory and spicy. He has a soft corner for Mediterranean ingredients like Olives, Chickpeas, Dates, Couscous, Laban. Its not odd that his favorite dishes include salads like Fattoush and Tabbouleh, light overstuffed Pita bread sandwiches with Falafel chunks laced with Tahini and Hummus, grilled meats like spicy chunks of Shish Tawook cooked with lot of Taoum and finally, royal and rich desserts laden with nuts, dry fruits like Umm Ali, Mouhalabieh and silky, smooth tasting Cream Caramel served with a dollop of whipped cream. Here's a salad he dished out some time back and I was very pleased. :-)

If we are eating out and there is a food joint/ food truck/ restaurant selling Middle Eastern fare, there is a high probability that both of us will gladly nod our heads and attack the food with an unsaid decision taken in unison. Much to our relief, most of the Middle Eastern places serve a salad made either with Couscous or Quinoa an an appetizer. That being one of the reasons why we piqued a stealth but sure love for grains which we would not have tried otherwise. Access to a variety of food choices, willingness to shift gears and an open mind plays a large role in remoulding your food habits in the long run. 

Few of my friends cook Quinoa in pressure cooker which I have not tried as yet. I used Sumac, a Middle Eastern spice powder which has a subtle lemon like flavor. The variety of Quinoa which we used here was pre-flavored with Mushrooms and Parsley which does not force one to use vegetable or chicken stock, which also implies that you can cook the grains with water and it would still turn out tasty.  I was running out of Cucumber and Feta, but a must if this Salad is your main and only meal. The taste takes a bit of getting used to but once you like it, there's no looking back.

~ Quinoa Mediterranean Salad ~
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Quinoa (cooked as per instructions on the packet) - 2 cups

Mixed Olives (Chopped and pitted - Salt cured) - 4 tbsp
Chickpeas (cooked and lightly salted) - 1/2 cup
Cucumber (peeled, seeds removed and chopped) - 1/4 cup
Shallots (finely chopped) - 2 tbsp
Sumac - 1/2 tsp
Goji Berries - 1 tsp
Feta Cheese (cold, cubed) - 3 tbsp
Coriander leaves (finely chopped) - 2 tbsp
Sea Salt

Wash Quinoa in multiple changes of water. Cook as per instruction on the packet (I used a variety which was flavored with Mushroom and Parsley). It took me approx. 20 minutes to cook the tiny grains on the stove in plain water. Upon cooking, tiny pigtails like thing sprout out from each of them. Fluff the grains with a fork and add Sumac powder, Shallots, Chickpeas, Olives, Cucumber, Feta and give a gentle toss. Adjust salt as desired. Garnish with Goji Berries and Coriander leaves. Serve warm or as a side dish. If serving cold, chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.

Note: Add very less salt if using salt-cured Olives. Salads take very less salt as compared to main meals like curries. The Salad can be served cold or warm.

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