Eggplant, quinoa, barley and hazelnut salad

Posted on February 19, 2014

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If you have been as indulgent as I have been over the first couple of weeks of February, you should be practicing some clean eating too. So here I am trying to be helpful to compensate  for the lack of posts this month.

This is a seasonal, tasty and filling salad that features one of my favourite veggies – the eggplant. For those of us down under, eggplants are beautiful this time of the year (they’re in season from December through to around early April). When shopping for them, choose eggplants that are plump, firm to the touch and feel quite heavy in the hand. Ideally the skin should have a lovely sheen with little to no blemishes. Something that resembles this:

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The following recipe was inspired from a recent meal I had at Bar Lourinhã (37 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC). The silky roasted eggplant is a great textural contrast against the chewy elements (quinoa and barley) and nutty crunch. The eggplant has a light dusting of a spice mix to add a bit of warmth and intrigue but I’ve otherwise kept it simple to let the individual ingredients shine.

Quinoa and barley are both cooked via the absorption method, but they absorb different volumes of water and at different rates (barley tends have a longer cook time and requires more water) which can cause slight problems when trying to coordinate the cooking of both items. Some people will get around this by cooking the quinoa and barley in different pots, but can you really be bothered doing the extra washing up? I consider myself a bit of a strategist and have thus come up with what I consider, an ingenious workaround so that you can cook both the quinoa and barley in the same pot…just soak the barley in water for 30 minutes prior to cooking. During the soaking, the barley will absorb some water and soften, bringing down the overall cooking time and water required. Bingo – now your quinoa and barley will cook together in the pot with the same water ratio and in ~30 minutes. You’re welcome :).

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RECIPE – Eggplant, quinoa, barley and nut salad (serve as standalone dish or as part of a multi course meal)

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Ingredients:

  • ~300g eggplant, cut into medium sized chunks (I used half of the eggplant pictured above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) for cooking
  • 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup barley, rinsed and soaked for 30 minutes
  • 1 cup water
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon EVOO
  • 2 tablespoons toasted and crushed hazelnuts
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • a few sprigs coriander (or parsley)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. In a mortar and pestle, grind coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ground cinnamon and salt together. Reserve.
  3. Heat oven-proof grill on medium to high heat. Brush grill with a thin layer of EVOO and sear eggplants on both sides until it takes on some colour. Brush a little EVOO on eggplants and sprinkle on prepared spice mixture. Place pan into hot oven and cook for ~30 minutes or until eggplants are tender and silky. If the eggplant looks a little dry out of the oven, just give it a little brush with EVOO and problem should be solved. (If you do not have an oven-proof grill, just transfer browned eggplants onto baking tray for the final cook in oven.)IMG_8185
  4. While the eggplants are in the oven, place quinoa, pre-soaked barley, water and salt into a small saucepan. Cover and bring to boil on medium to high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and leave lid slightly ajar. Cook until all the water has been absorbed (~30 minutes).IMG_8184
  5. Arrange cooked eggplants, quinoa and barley onto a large plate. Scatter toasted hazelnuts and toasted sesame seeds around. Top with coriander sprigs.
  6. To make dressing, mix together 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon honey and 1 teaspoon EVOO. Drizzle liberally on salad.
  7. Serve immediately.IMG_8192

With the use of a heavier veg and mix of grain, seed and nut, this is a surprisingly filling salad. So full of goodness that my carnivorous dining companion didn’t even comment on it being meat free!

Lastly, for the more astute readers who noticed another salad in the background of the above picture; that’s a preview for the next post ;). See, I mean business when I said I was doing some clean eating! Also, now you can be sure there won’t be too long a wait until I write again.

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Posted in: MissC cooks, Salads