This roasted eggplant and quinoa salad is hearty enough for lunch but with a side of crusty bread hearty enough for a simple supper. It’s make ahead ready and can hang out for days in the fridge. And while there’s a bit of a time commitment in roasting eggplant, the oven does most of the work. This recipe is vegetarian, vegan and gluten free.
Trying New Veggies
I’ve been nudging Rob to incorporate the beautiful aubergine vegetable into his diet for some time now, but he just hasn’t come around. He’s been brave enough though… trying it from time to time. Me, on the other hand, I enjoy eggplant as much as I can and continue to find new ways to prepare it. It helps that purple just happens to be my favorite color.
About Eggplant Quinoa Salad
This salad showcases many different flavors, but they balance well and complement each other. The nuttyness of the quinoa, is highlighted by the smoky, creamy richness of the roasted eggplant and the vibrant zing of the Kalamata and sun dried tomatoes. The vinaigrette gives the salad a bright, smooth and slightly sweet finish. A bit of salt and pepper and fresh thyme (one of my favorite herbs) brings it all together.
There is no need to salt the eggplant before roasting because we really don’t want to dry the eggplant out in this recipe. What about the bitterness, you ask? I know, there are some die-hard salters out there, and I used to always salt too, but I have not experienced a bitter eggplant from not salting yet.
Besides, all the juices (i.e. flavor) will be collected and used in the salad. You’ll score the eggplant, add a bit of olive oil, slather it around, then turn the eggplant over for a long roast. It smells soooo good.
Three star ingredients worth highlighting in this salad for their outstanding nutritional value include:
1. Quinoa is sometimes referred to as a grain but this superfood is not. It is actually the seed of a plant related to veggies such as spinach and chard. It is an excellent source of protein and is a complete protein meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is rich in iron, a good source of phosphorus and is heart healthy in that it reduces LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol. It is an excellent choice for those wanting more plant-based protein in their diet.
2. Eggplant is a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, and folate among others. It promotes central nervous system health and it is high in nutrients yet low in calories, at 28 calories per 1 cup serving!
3. Olives are a rich source of monounsaturated fats and phytonutrients which are important in protecting our cells against cell damage and inflammation. Also, olives contain vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, iron and fiber among others.
Roasted Eggplant and Quinoa Salad
For the Salad:
- 1 1/2 C Red or White Quinoa or white
- 3 C Water
- 2 Globe Eggplant medium
- 1 Tbs + 2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3/4 C Kalamata Olives pitted and rough chopped
- 1/3 C Marinated Sun Dried Tomatoes drained and rough chopped
- 2 Tbs Fresh Thyme chopped (about 10 sprigs)
- 3/4 tsp Sea Salt
- Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
For the Dressing:
- 1 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice
- 3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Large Clove of Garlic minced
- 1/2 tsp Lemon Zest
- Pinch of Salt
For the Salad:
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Rinse quinoa under running water. In a medium sauce pan, combine rinsed quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, turn to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered for about five minutes. Remove lid and transfer quinoa to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- While the quinoa is cooking and oven is preheating, slice eggplant, lengthwise and score the flesh diagonally, to make diamond shape patterns. Spread 1 1/2 tsp of olive oil on the flesh of each eggplant and slather around using fingers to distribute the oil evenly. Place a thyme spring on each slice and turn flesh side down on parchment or silpat lined baking pan. Place eggplant in oven and roast for 50-55 minutes.
- While the eggplant is roasting, prepare the rest of the salad by rough chopping the Kalamata and sun-dried tomatoes. De-leaf the thyme and chop, finely, reserving a few springs and leaves for garnish. Add the olives, tomatoes, chopped thyme and salt and pepper to the large mixing bowl the quinoa is in. Set aside. Prepare the dressing (see below).
- Once the eggplant has finished roasting, flip the eggplant over and cool. Remove and discard the thyme. Using a spoon, scoop out flesh and discard the skins. Rough chop the flesh of the eggplant and transfer to the large mixing bowl. Add the dressing. Stir to evenly distribute the ingredients. Taste for salt and add a squeeze more lemon if desired. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 an hour before serving. Garnish with fresh thyme. Store in the refrigerator for up to three days.
For the Dressing:
- In a lidded jar, add the balsamic, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and lemon zest. Shake to emulsify.