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Abrazos! xox Penny

Monday, August 2, 2010

Passport to Adventure: Meatless Monday

I love everything about Meatless Monday...from the concept, to the campaign to the actual day itself. For me, it is the launching point for a week of adventures, both culinary and artistic. I haven't traveled abroad too much and looking at different cuisines for meatless, plant-rich cooking inspiration is one way to fill up my passport. Can't say there is a flavor I haven't liked!

The other fun inspiration comes from the artistic side of food...the textures and the colors. My artistic training stopped with those Paint by Numbers kits. Remember those? My mom has a few bird-like figures made out of clay from when I was about 6, but no other art by my hand to speak of!

Meatless Monday transports me. With its gorgeous palette of fruits and veggies and world of textures from grains and legumes, it is my artistic, culinary travelogue and sets the tone for an adventurous week. 

Today, I am headed to Morocco, care to join me? I want to serve this as an main dish and am opting for quinoa in this salad instead of the more expected couscous, and I prefer the red variety. I have also made this with a combination of dried fruits like dates, figs and apricots. Feel free to play around with what you have on hand. Serve it with mint tea, a favorite Moroccan beverage.

Moroccan Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa, toasted
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
2 cups filtered water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved and seeded (nice if you can find colorful heirloom varieties)
1 red onion or shallot, sliced
1/4-1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped
sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
tender mixed greens or fresh baby spinach

Lemon Dressing

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice and grated zest from lemon
2 tablespoons plain yogurt of choice
1-2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper 
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

First, make Lemon Dressing. Put all ingredients, except oil, in a glass jar and mix well. Add oil and either whisk or shake in jar until smooth. Taste for seasonings.

I pan toast my quinoa by putting it in a dry, medium hot skillet. Stir it around until it starts to making popping sounds and then becomes fragrant. Don't burn! This should only take about 5 minutes. Then, rinse in a paper towel lined colander and let drain well.

Pour olive oil into a medium saucepan, heat to medium and add garlic. Cook until golden, about 1 minute and then add in apricots, other dried fruits if used and quinoa. Stir for a couple of minutes to dry quinoa out a little, then add 2 cups water and sea salt. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until all water has evaporated and quinoa is tender and "curlicued", about 15-20 minutes.

Put quinoa in a bowl and stir in half of Lemon Dressing (about 1/3 cup). Let sit for about 10 minutes and either chill for a cold salad or proceed with recipe for a hearty, warm salad. 

At serving time, toss in chopped shallot and halved and seeded cherry tomatoes and serve on a bed of fresh field greens or baby spinach. Drizzle remaining Lemon Dressing over salad and garnish with chopped almonds and maybe some toasted sesame seeds. Serves 3-4 as a main dish.


  1. Ooh, the quinoa looks great! I've never made it; the rinsing step always makes me stop. Seems like it would all go down the drain, but the paper towel is a good idea.

  2. Yes, it can be a little fussy but brand pictured is pre-washed...I discovered the paper towel trick after flushing a recipe or two down the drain!!