Saturday, July 3, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin, Chickpea, & Quinoa Salad

My roommate's going to laugh when she sees this post: every day at home in L.A., she makes some sort of quinoa dish for herself. I, on the other hand, had never made quinoa before in my life, until I got here to Israel. It's not that I avoided making it before; I like it, but just don't usually have time to cook other than special baking projects when I'm at home. When I got here, however, I discovered large bags of red and white quinoa in the cupboard of my rented apartment, and found some extra time on my hands.

Since everyone always expounds upon the great health benefits of quinoa ("keen-wah" would be an accurate pronunciation), and I had some fresh root veggies on hand ready to roast, and Israel always impresses me with its salad selection, and I had the time, I decided to work up a salad loosely based on this smittenkitchen bulgur salad recipe.

I mixed some red and white quinoa together, and I cut up and tossed the veggies and chickpeas with hot pepper oil, salt, and pepper before roasting them. I do highly recommend roasting the veggies since it's so easy and brings out their natural sweetness - which is good for the spices I've added here. Next time I'd like to toast the quinoa as well. I'm not entirely confident that I could reproduce this exact dressing again, but I'd like to give you the tools to make your own version - if I can flavor something to taste, you can too! The general idea is to combine some kind of oil, acidic component, sweetness, and spices.

Here's the way to go about it - you can time it so that the quinoa's soaking and then cooking while you're prepping the veggies, and you'll have time to make the dressing while everything's roasting:

Quinoa preparation:
1 C quinoa (any combination of different quinoa colors is fine, red and white is pretty!)
1/2 tsp salt (optional but recommended)

In a cooking pot, soak the quinoa in 1 1/2 C water for 15 minutes. After it's done soaking, stir the water and grains around with your hand to stir up the part of the outer layer that's supposed to come loose - it will make the quinoa a little bitter if it remains on it. Pour off the top layer of soaking water with any loose outer layers, and then pour the rest into a fine sieve and drain well. Put the quinoa back into the cooking pot, add another 1 1/2 C water with the salt, and bring to a boil on the stove top. Once it's boiling, cover tightly with a lid and turn it down to simmer for 15 minutes. Then remove from heat and let sit covered for another 5 minutes. When you're ready to use it, fluff it with a fork.

Veggie preparation:
1 large can or 2 small cans of chickpeas
1 large onion
approximately 6x5x2" piece of pumpkin, or 1 large sweet potato or other root vegetable
1 large beet
olive oil
hot pepper oil/red pepper flakes/cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C.
  • Line two baking pans that have edges with foil.
  • Drain chickpeas and toss in a bowl with olive oil (or, if you have it, hot pepper oil; if you don't have it, you may add some red pepper flakes or a dash of cayenne pepper here), salt, and pepper - enough to just coat them. Spread in a single layer on one baking pan.
  • Cube up the onion and the pumpkin/sweet potato/root veggie of your choice into pieces that are 1/2" to 1" square. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread on the other baking pan.
  • Rinse the whole beet and wrap the whole thing in foil. Scootch some of the other stuff over and place it on one of the baking pans.
  • Stick both pans in the oven, setting a timer for 30 minutes. Check after 30 minutes to see how things are doing - my chickpeas were browned by then, so I took them out. The pumpkin and onion took another 15 minutes (for a total of 45 in the oven), and then I left the beet for another 15. The root veggies should be easily pierced with a fork when they're done, and I like the onions to be browned a bit since a raw piece of onion is too strong for me. The finished beet should give when squeezed (I got impatient and took the beet out too early, so mine was a little crunchy). Remove the beet skin once the beet has cooled down a bit and then cube it up.

Dressing preparation
(amounts are all roughly estimated, so you will need to adjust to your taste):
1/8 C olive oil
3 T hot pepper oil (may be replaced with red pepper flakes or 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper)
3 T apple cider vinegar (may be replaced with any other vinegar or lemon juice)
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper to taste (I added a lot more than I first thought was necessary!)

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together until smooth in a large bowl. As each vegetable finishes roasting, toss it with the dressing (chickpeas first, then onions and pumpkin, then beets). Toss together with the quinoa when all veggies are done.

I'm going to serve this on wilted spinach, but it can be eaten plain very well. The spiciness is one of my favorite parts of this dish, but I hope it's not too much for you. Really, this is a spiced salad in more than once sense - piquant with the hot peppers, but spiced with the cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt, and pepper.

And I guess I should mention that this is a cheap and healthy dish that can be altered to use any grain, vegetables, and seasonings you desire? I found everything I needed in a kitchen whose contents were predetermined by a previous tenant, so I'd love to see what your kitchens might produce!
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