Mediterranean Eggplant and Quinoa Salad — eggplant , healthy , quinoa , quinoa salad , rice / grains , vegetables — For Two, Please

August 28, 2009

Mediterranean Eggplant and Quinoa Salad

I've been wanting to try quinoa for a while, and I finally got around to it this week. Besides learning how to cook it, I also learned how to pronounce it...which, believe me, is a much harder task. How am I supposed to know that "quin-noa" is actually pronounced "keen-wa?" Good thing I've been saying quin-noa my whole life without anyone correcting me. Ya know, I absolutely loooove mispronouncing words in front of my coworkers and stuff.

Like its pronunciation, quinoa also looks deceptive. I mean, just look at the picture -- you can't even try to tell me that looks appetizing! But surprisingly, it's really delicious. And healthy, which is double bonus points in my book:

1 C white rice: 4 grams protein, 1 gram fiber
1 C brown rice: 5 grams protein, 4 grams fiber
1 C quinoa: 8 grams protein, 5 grams fiber

I think what makes this dish so tasty is the eggplant. We LOVE eggplant, especially the soft, succulent, melt-in-your-mouth kind. Couple this with some hearty quinoa, spicy red onions, juicy tomatoes, lemon juice, and fresh mint -- and you have a wonderfully complex "salad" that fills you up within a couple of mouthfuls. Sounds like a winner to me :)

Mediterranean Eggplant and Quinoa Salad
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2006

1 1/2 lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 lb zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
10 T extra virgin olive oil
1 t salt
1 t black pepper
1 C chopped scallion (from 1 bunch)
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 C quinoa
1 1/3 C chicken broth
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 t sugar
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 C thinly sliced red onion
1/2 C chopped fresh mint

Roast eggplant and zucchini:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss eggplant and zucchini with 5 tablespoons oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl, then spread in 2 oiled large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pans. Roast vegetables in oven, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until vegetables are golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes total. Combine vegetables in 1 pan and cool, reserving other pan for cooling barley.

Cook quinoa:
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook scallion, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add barley and cook, stirring until well coated with oil, 2 minutes more. Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to reserved shallow baking pan and spread to quickly cool, uncovered, to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Make dressing and assemble salad:
Whisk together lemon juice, garlic, sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add barley, roasted vegetables, and remaining ingredients to bowl with dressing and toss until combined well. Serve with cheese slices.

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