It’s 105 degrees Fahrenheit outside and summer is here. Living in the desert, it can hard to beat the heat. Even most of the plants around our home look thirsty and tired. The one wondrous plant that makes me love summer in the desert is the cactus. As all the other flowers and trees wilt and fade in the heat, the cactus plants get big beautiful blooms to remind me how wonderful nature can be. As the cactus flowers bloom, I’m working hard in my garden to keep the plants there growing, so that we can enjoy healthy eating all year long. I’ve got a few varieties of basil to stock up for winter pesto, thyme, lavender, hot and spicy peppers and gorgeous Black Indigo heirloom tomatoes. Their rich colour and smoky flavor will be wonderful to cook with.
One of my new summer favourites is the salad I’m posting about today – it’s delicious and perfect for summer time when sunshine and warmth makes you think of getting in shape and healthy eating. Do you remember the first time you ever saw quinoa? I do, and I was shocked and told myself that people in America eat bird food! The tiny grains looked like birdseed to me, and I couldn’t twist my mouth to pronounce such an odd word. For a long time, I broke the word into pieces and said it “Kee-Nu-Wah.” Honestly, I still do pronounce it that way sometimes, even though I’ve learned that it’s actually pronounced “Keen-Wah.” Despite it’s seed-like appearance and funny name, it’s become one of my favourite grains and a go-to ingredient for healthy eating since my brother introduced me to it a couple years ago. Its richness in protein and vitamins and light, fluffy texture means it can be used for any meal: breakfast, lunch or supper.
When it gets as hot outside as it is now, all I want to eat is a fresh, healthy salad. My husband is not a salad person at all, and of course, but I still want him to eat healthy, fresh food. While he has a typical manly taste for meat, I’ve made it my goal to find a salad he’ll take a second serving of, and I’ve won him over with this quinoa salad with eggplant, zucchini, mint and pistachios. It’s the perfect combination of the tastes of summer, and the quinoa provides protein and makes it filling. It even works for gluten free diets. I’ve adapted the recipe from Clean Slate to suit our tastes, substituting different kinds of mint, including apple mint, spearmint, mojito mint and lemon balm, and my husband has enjoyed it so much he even packed it in his lunch for work. Experiment with your own adaptations on this perfect summer salad, or enjoy my version below. Either way, you’ll stay cool and refreshed this summer.
- 1 cup of quinoa, washed and drained
- 1 ¾ cups of water
- 1 tablespoon of rosemary
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
- ½ eggplant, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons of oil (for cooking)
- 2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup roasted pistachios
- 3-4 shishito peppers, roasted
- ¼ cup of micro greens
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- Freshly crushed black pepper
- Bring the water to boil and add quinoa, salt and rosemary. Cook on medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes until tender and still chewy.
- Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil and fluff it with a fork.
- Heat some oil in pan and cook zucchini, eggplant slices until golden brown. These will cook very quickly, so be careful not to burn them.
- Cook the garlic for 30 seconds.
- Add the cooked vegetables and garlic to the quinoa.
- Roast shishito peppers to give a nice smoky flavor. Dice them to add in salad or you can leave them whole to garnish them on top of salad.
- Roughly chop pistachios and add them to the salad
- Stir in the scallions, micro greens, lemon juice and zest.
- Season with salt and pepper and toss it to mix well and serve right away.
~Stay Cool & Eat Healthy~