My family does birthdays well. Yes, there are thoughtful gifts and spending the evening with each other, catching up, the irreverent conversations… But where we really excel is the food! This weekend we celebrated my mom’s birthday with a Greek themed menu. Her husband made a lamb stew, my aunt made a baked feta cheese appetizer with olives and roasted red peppers, a garbonzo bean and kale dish with tons of garlic that was amazing, I made tzatziki sauce, a lemon cake, and this quinoa salad. There was pita bread and plenty of wine too.
This salad, as made here, is vegan and gluten free. You could easily add some nice feta cheese to it, or make it with couscous instead of quinoa. But, don’t think for a minute that because it has the vegan and gluten free labels that it’s lacking anything – its not!
With the sweetness of the apricots, the nutty bite from the quinoa and pine nuts, tangy freshness of the lemon juice and herbs, deep richness of the spices, this dish hits all the right notes. It is complex and light, rich in flavor and texture, and an excellent accompaniment to any cuisine from around the Mediterranean. This dish would be at home among Moroccan, Egyptian, Greek, Turkish, even French and Italian tables!
Is that enough gushing about a single recipe for you? I thought so. Looks good, doesn’t it? So, without further ado, the recipe:
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
makes a large bowl, serves about 16 as a side
- 2 cups quinoa, uncooked
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 2 Tbsp scallions (green onions), chopped
- 2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
- 2 Tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- salt and pepper to taste
Rince the quinoa well in a fine mesh strainer under running water. Toast/dry the grain in a large pot, stirring frequently until nutty smelling. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat, and fluff with a fork every now and again until cool. (You can do this part hours ahead of time!)
Once the quinoa is cool, combine it with the apricots, pine nuts, and fresh herbs in a large bowl. Separately, combine lemon juice, olive oil, spices, salt and pepper. Adjust the seasonings to suit your taste. Pour the liquid over the grain mixture and toss to coat. Taste, and add anything you want more of!