Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Herbed Quinoa and Grilled Eggplant

Herbed Quinoa and Grilled Eggplant

My tasting partner has recently redoubled his efforts in eating a healthy diet, and this affects me, the chef.  I have always subscribed to the idea that I am not a short order chef, and I would cook only one meal for the family.  I felt the meals I cooked were healthy, nutritious and tasted good.  When our boys were young, the rule was they had to taste or try everything, and if they did not like it, they were allowed to get something to eat that they prepared, which most likely was a bowl of cereal.  My oldest son ate a honey nut cereal for about one full year, and he survived.  So, back to my tasting partner and his whole food, plant based vegan diet and my dinner preparations quandary.  Whose diet do I accommodate- his vegan diet or mine?  My diet is more of ‘everything in moderation’ diet, but mostly vegetables and fruits, whole grains, with fish, chicken and dairy in limited amounts, and of course, chocolate.  Right now, I am leaning towards the vegan diet for us at dinner and a more liberal diet for me at lunch.  While searching for vegan dinner entrees, I found this recipe, which was quite delicious and filling.

Recipe after the jump.

adapted from

serves 3-4

3-4 medium eggplants
sea salt
extra virgin olive oil

za'atar seasoning (see below)

1/2 cup quinoa

half of a small red onion, sliced thin
generous handful each of fresh basil, dill and cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. capers, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. honey

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

Cut the eggplants into 1'' rounds. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 30 minutes to release water.

Add the quinoa to a pot with a pinch of salt and 1 cup of water.  Bring it to a gentle boil, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, fluff with a fork, cover again and leave it to steam another 5 minutes.

Heat up your grill or grill pan.  Press the eggplants between a dishcloth or paper towels to absorb the excess moisture. Brush both sides with olive oil and grill for about 5 minutes per sides until you get nice dark marks and the texture seems pretty soft throughout. Remove to a plate, drizzle a bit more olive oil.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan over a medium flame, being careful not to burn them.

Into a medium bowl, toss in the onions, all of the herbs, oil, vinegar, honey and a generous pinch of salt and pepper and mix, add the quinoa, and mix again.

Put the eggplants on a plate, top with the quinoa and garnish with the toasted pine nuts and za’atar.

Za’atar Seasoning

¼ cup sesame seeds (raw or toasted)
¼ cup sumac *
2 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. dried oregano

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
2. Funnel into a glass jar and store in a cool, dark place. 

* note: Sumac is a specialty spice, used primarily in Middle Eastern cooking, and is not readily available in all grocery stores.  An acceptable substitution is lemon zest, which gives the mixture some tartness.

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