I’ve been working on my first freeform crochet tutorial, and it’s taking a bit longer than expected, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share a recent meal I came up with on the fly. I don’t always eat this healthy so I’m especially proud I was able to pull this one together last minute.
I get a lot of ideas for new creations from ingredients I have on hand, or from things that inspire me at the supermarket or farmers’ market, but I’m not always up for trying something new. In this case, I was really motivated to use up some arugula and cooked quinoa I had in the fridge, and saw an eggplant and some mint at the market that called my name. I learned an easy new technique of cubing and roasting the eggplant to use for this dish too, which I will share below. You could say this is a Mediterranean flavor inspiration.
The great thing about salads and buddha bowls is that you can toss a bunch of ingredients together with a nice dressing and get some surprising and filling combinations. I use a basic formula to make sure that my bowls are satisfying and tasty. I often get inspiration from a single ingredient, or from Instagram.
The basic components for a satisfying salad bowl are this:
- Greens – romaine, kale, spinach, arugula, mixed greens
- Grain – optional but a quick cooking grain is nice, like quinoa or bulgur wheat
- Color – Red tomatoes, bell pepper, beets, carrots, green cucumber, red lettuce etc.
- beans and/or nuts – think garbanzos, black beans, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, anything
- a sweet flavor – such as apple, pear, dried berries or currants
- a salty flavor – olives, roasted almonds, or a dash of sea salt or Bragg’s liquid aminos
- a bitter/sour/spicy flavor – Can be from arugula, radicchio, citrus, fresh herbs, onion
- Fat – avocado, or a nut based dressing such as tahini
Of course, all these components are optional but can be a good guideline. I usually go with a tahini or cashew based dressing. I like this basic tahini dressing, which I used on this salad. I’ve recently discovered I like the taste of roasted veggies so I decided to use some in this bowl.
Disclaimer: I didn’t measure anything, and I arranged these salads individually for myself and my husband, so just eyeball amounts and omit anything you don’t like, such as tomatoes. The key ingredients are the roasted eggplant, mint, chickpeas and quinoa. Even the arugula is optional if you are not a fan; just use whatever green you prefer, as it is not the centerpiece of this bowl.
Roasted Eggplant, Arugula and Quinoa Salad
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
- 1 medium eggplant, cubed and roasted
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, for roasting eggplant
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 2 cups loosely packed baby arugula
- 1 handful mint, roughly chopped
- half cucumber, sliced and quartered
- 7 oz, or half a can of chickpeas
- 1/4 red onion, diced
- handful cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup lemon tahini dressing
- sunflower seeds, raw or roasted
- raw pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 Tbsp. sumac powder
- extra olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon to taste
Cook quinoa ahead according to directions. Drain and rinse the chickpeas
To roast the eggplant:
- Peel the eggplant, but leave a few strips on so that it will hold its shape when added to the salad. Cut into cubes that are 1″ or smaller.
- Put the eggplant pieces in a colander and sprinkle with salt, tossing the pieces with your hands as you sprinkle to make sure all the pieces are evenly coated. Allow the eggplant to stand at room temperature for 30-45 minutes till beads of liquid form on the surface. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly and pat dry with a clean cloth. (This salting process helps to remove any bitterness from the eggplant. If your eggplant is small and young, it’s unlikely to be bitter and you can skip this step. I did it with mine because I wasn’t sure.)
- With rack in middle of oven, preheat to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking mat. Spread the cubes out and drizzle with olive oil. Adding salt, pepper or other spices at this point is optional. Just be careful not to overpower the naturally sweet flavor of the eggplant.
- Roast eggplant for 10 minutes, then take and and stir. Place back in oven for 10-20 minutes, until eggplant is soft and slightly caramelized.
- While eggplant is roasting, prepare the lemon tahini dressing.
- Add all ingredients except for the toppings in a bowl with a few tablespoons of the dressing and drizzle of olive oil. Toss to combine. Taste and add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
- Divide salad into two bowls. Top with sunflower or pumpkin seeds, sumac and a generous drizzle of the remaining dressing.
Note: This is my first time writing out a recipe. Feedback is welcome!