Sunday, July 4, 2010

quinoa salad with greek yogurt dressing

Happy 4th of July!

I am looking forward to participating in the requisite independence day activity: the BBQ. Having lived in Texas, we are well-equipped with a Texas-sized BBQ, which means the day's festivities (friends + food + drinks) will take place at our house. This is our first 4th of July in our new home and I'm excited to find out whether we'll be able to see any of the peninsula's fireworks shows tonight from our front porch that overlooks the bay.

The weather is whole-heartedly cooperating: I awoke to bright sunshine and 70 degrees at 8am this morning, and it's looking like we could hit 90 degrees this afternoon. Perfect BBQ weather.

Our menu for the day (some of which I'll post over the coming week) includes: watermelon, grapes and figs, chips and crudites with homemade salsa, guac, and bean dip, quinoa salad with greek yogurt dressing, rootbeer baked beans, teriyaki kabobs, burgers, and chocolate crackle cookies from Grandma Francis' cookbook. I'm making a pitcher of mohitos to supplement our beer and wine selection. My mouth is watering just thinking about it all!

Though most of it still needs to be prepared...

One dish that is already done is the quinoa salad, which I made last night. This was a case where no recipe came into play and it all started out with a single inspiring ingredient: eggplant (somewhat ironically, as the eggplant ended up playing a relatively minor role in the resulting dish). I had some leftover from a salad I'd made earlier in the week and was pondering what to do with it. I was initially thinking about something in the garbanzo bean/quinoa/curry direction, but the weather was far too warm yesterday to want to consume anything hot. So I went in the cold-salad-quinoa direction instead, with a Greek twist.

JR and I ate the quinoa salad for dinner last night, but this is definitely going to be one of those dishes that is better on the second day, giving the flavors an opportunity to meld. The mix of bright colors means varied vitamin content - a beautiful and healthy dish! Here's what I did:

Quinoa Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing
Serves 6-8

1 c. quinoa
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 c. eggplant, cubed
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained
2 cucumbers, chopped*
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded & chopped
15 kalamata olives, quartered
2 c. baby spinach
1 Tbsp. mint, chopped
3 oz. feta, crumbled, plus more to top
*If the skin is bitter, peel the cucumber.

Greek yogurt dressing:
3 Tbsp. greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. mint leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
salt & white pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa according to directions. Set aside and let cool.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant and cook until tender and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Allow to cool.

Make yogurt dressing by whisking together ingredients in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, combine garbanzo beans, cucumber, tomatoes, pepper, olives, spinach, mint, feta, and cooled quinoa and eggplant. Add dressing and stir well to combine. Cover and chill in fridge at least one hour (ideally overnight). Serve in individual bowls, topped with additional feta.

In other exciting news, my tomato plant in the garden has it's first red tomato! I discovered it yesterday. This means we'll soon be overrun with fresh tomatoes, which I'm very much looking forward to.

Happy holiday! Stay tuned for postings on our other BBQ dishes in the coming week.

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