This month I am developing bowls of fun, nutritious and modern day salads for ELLE magazine’s mid year issue. I find the anatomy of a salad utterly fascinating. Just like any other dish, a great salad has a balance of flavours and textures. A slight upset and you might end up with a mushy salad or a really dry one that becomes tedious to eat after a few mouthfuls. A flavour matched salad will make you adventurous enough to enjoy ingredients you would never otherwise attempt to eat on their own.
Quinoa goes really well with eggplant. Who would have thought? And garlic ties them both beautifully. It is important to chop the eggplant fine so it cooks quickly and crisps a bit in the pan. I add lentils to make it more dense and hearty. The reds and yellows of the capsicum and corn add a nice colour to the dish. A box of organic sunflower sprouts sourced at the local markets finds its way home amongst all the different ingredients in this bowl. When I have an early light lunch, I snack on a bowl of this salad in the later afternoon to get rid of my pre-caffeine slump. It works to get my mouth exercising with all the crunch and bite each spoonful has to offer.
Sunflower sprouts are really pretty. They are larger than your average sprouts and sturdier as well. They have a slight crunch to them and the flavour is distinctly nutty on the palate.They grow well on a window sill with filtered light from sunflower seeds planted lightly in moist soil. They were my surprise and unusual salad add-in this week. Do you follow an exact science while creating salads? What is the most fun thing you have put in your salad?
QUINOA LENTIL AND SMOKEY EGGPLANT SALAD (gluten-free | dairy-free)
If you have cooked quinoa on hand, this gorgeous hearty salad literally takes minutes to prepare. Quinoa pairs beautifully with smokey pan tossed eggplant. The lentils and veggies add a nice texture. A very nourishing gluten-free meal, perfect cold or warmed up.
Serves – 6-8
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups finely chopped eggplant
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked quinoa
400g can of lentils, rinsed
kernels of 1 corn cob
2 small red capsicums, chopped
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
1 cup sunflower sprouts
50g toasted pine nuts
juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
handful of coriander leaves
sprinkling of salt and pepper
Heat oil in a sauté pan on high. Add the eggplant and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes, tossing constantly until starting to brown and crisp. Remove from heat, add the salt and mix well. Set aside and cool completely.
Place all the other ingredients in a large bowl. Add the eggplant crumb mix. Toss to mix well. Serve garnished with extra coriander and lime wedges.
Sunflower sprouts can be replaced by other micro herbs, snow pea sprouts, baby spinach or even mung beans.
Other salad toppings to experiment with include pomegranate seeds, sunflower kernels, raisins and slivered almonds.
Salad freezes well. To serve, simply thaw on your kitchen counter for a couple of hours.