Friends with benefits : GREEK QUINOA SALAD

I’m a salad girl. No, not the kind that would go to a restaurant and pick on some greenage for a meal (hell no) but definitely one that would get it as a side. That kind of salad girl.

I had my first taste of Quinoa about a month ago. Until then, this obscure little South American grain was just one of those highly priced exotic items that was never on my shopping list. I had no clue what to do with it either. And then, Bobby Flay happened. I stumbled upon his recipe for ‘Greek Quinoa salad’ on a website and loved the flavours he was playing with. Mine, however, is a bit more adventurous with the addition of honey in the vinaigrette, char-grilled peppers, and capers. I love the smoky-sweetness that complements the Quinoa wonderfully. If you have some fresh figs on hand, throw them in there too!

Although not very closely associated with its North African counterpart Couscous in terms of origin, I think it could act as a good substitute if you can’t get your hands on Quinoa. Also, Bulgur wheat is another option you could try.

Incorporating this wonder grain in your salad is a good way to get your daily dose of protein and it makes for a good foundation, especially if this dish is going to double up as a meal in itself. Which by the way, it totally could. This salad is one of those foods that is exponentially greater than the sum of its parts. Healthy and delicious! Hence the title reference.

INGREDIENTS:

(Serves 4 as a starter)

Quinoa – 1 cup

Cherry tomatoes – 1 cup, halved

1 small red onion, halved and julienned

Red pepper – 1

Yellow pepper – 1

Black olives – 10 (I’ve used un-pitted)

Capers – a handful

Parsley – a few sprigs

Mint – a small bunch

Feta cheese, for sprinkling

For the dressing:

Apple cider vinegar – 2 tbsp

1 garlic clove, smashed to a paste

Oregano – ½ tsp

Orange zest – ½ tsp

Honey – 1 tbsp

Extra virgin olive oil – ¼ cup

Freshly ground black pepper

Juice of half a lemon

Salt

METHOD:

Whisk together the honey, lemon juice, orange zest, oregano, garlic, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl. Slowly pour in the olive oil and whisk it all together until it emulsifies. Let the dressing sit for a bit in room temperature, allowing the flavours to meld (taste the dressing at this point and adjust according to how acidic/sweet you like it).

Add the quinoa to a pot of boiling salted water; bring it down to a slow simmer and cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the water has evaporated. Fork it through, and let cool for a few minutes.

Roast the red and yellow peppers directly over an open fire for a few minutes, turning them in regular intervals until their skins are blackened and scorched in patches. Remove and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Halve the peppers, remove the stalk and seeds, and julienne them lengthwise into roughly ½ inch slivers. Toss in the chopped cherry tomatoes, onion, olives, capers, parsley, mint and quinoa. Pour the dressing over the top and toss well to combine. Sprinkle with Feta, cover with cling film and refrigerate until you serve.

*This salad is best served cold, so make it at least an hour before serving.

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