Thankfully I'm not one of those people who need a lot of convincing to try something new. (Except when it comes to things like horse meat salami and such). I have no problem trying new foods when travelling or getting to know the culinary delights of a different culture. I discovered quinoa a while ago by accident. I saw this recipe in a newspaper that someone left behind on the subway.( See? It pays off to take public transit:)) That recipe never made it to my kitchen, I don't even remember what was in it, but I did some research on this wonder grain as soon as I got home. Turnes out, quinoa has been a staple of South American cuisine for centuries. I wonder what took us in the Northern Hemisphere so long to discover the "mother of all grains".
Lately I have been using this wonderfully versatile grain quite often. Whether it was a black been quinoa salad to accompany some barbecued Mexican fish wrapped in banana leaves ( oh, summer where art thou?) or just a quick Indian spiced mango and cilantro quinoa salad, I made sure to use it at least once a month. The benefits of quinoa are endless; it has a very high protein content, it's a great source of dietary fiber and it's also high in magnesium and iron. In its natural state, it has a bitter coating, called saponin. Most quinoa sold in North America has been processed to remove this coating.
Quinoa is cooked much like rice, 2 cups of water to 1 cup of grain for 15 minutes. It should be al dente, mild tasting and somewhat nutty when it's done.
This Moroccan salad is a very satisfying one; eats like a meal, rich with flavour and very filling because of the squash. The cumin seeds and preserved lemons give it that distinct Moroccan flavour that I tend to crave in cold winter months. For a great recipe for preserved lemons click here.
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, cubed
5 garlic coves, unpeeled
1 tbsp light olive oil
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp honey
1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 cups cooked red quinoa
4 oz soft, mild goat cheese
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 preserved lemon, peel only, sliced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted, crushed
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
some mixed greens (optional)
Preheat oven to 375F. In a bowl toss squash with garlic cloves, light olive oil, soy sauce and honey.Pour squash in a roasting tin and bake for 40 minutes or until squash cubes are soft but still holding their shape. Remove from oven. Put squash in a large bowl. Reserve garlic cloves.
Add chickpeas and quinoa to squash. Peel and coarsely mash reserved garlic cloves, add cumin seeds, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice salt and pepper.
Add dressing to squash mixture, then add preserved lemon peel. Mix well. Serve in large bowls, with toasted pumpkin seeds
and crumbled goat cheese on top.