• 2 cups of quinoa, white or red
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 3 cups water
  • salt
  • 3 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 20 fresh sage leaves
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 eggplant, sliced and roasted
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped (or parsley, or both)
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 green shallots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2-3 tomatoes, cubed
  • balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • olive oil, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper

Many people don’t like quinoa because they don’t know how to prepare this healthy grain into great tasting recipes. Indeed, quinoa is growing in popularity around the globe for its high nutritional value, high in protein, balanced in essential amino acids, making it a complete protein food and an excellent replacement for meat.

This recipe was inspired by Bulgarian cuisine for its use of typical ingredients, such as fresh dill or parsley, eggplant, tomatoes and particularly Bulgarian feta cheese. Bulgarians also enjoy cooked pumpkin as it is one favored fall and winter food, but here I chose to replace it with butternut squash, which has a distinctive taste and is a great match for sage leaves and of course Bulgarian paprika.

Directions

  1. Start by cooking the quinoa. Choose from white or red quinoa, that you rince under cold water until water is clear. In a saucepan, heat the oil or butter and fry up the quinoa for 1 minute until it is completely coated with oil. Then add the water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer until quinoa is cooked al dente, 15-20 minutes for white quinoa or 20-25 minutes for red. After this, let it cool down completely and stir with a fork to separate the grains.
    Alternatively, you can cook the quinoa in a rice cooker, which may take less time.
  2. Prepare the butternut squash that needs to be roasted in the oven. Peel and slice the squash in 1 inch cubes. Place in a baking dish with the chopped onion and fresh sage leaves, add olive oil and stir well to coat the squash with oil. Place in the oven at 200°C (400°F) and bake for about 30 minutes until squash cubes are tender. Sprinkle with paprika and let it cool down, before adding to the salad.
  3. Slice the eggplant in circles. Roast or grill each slice on both sides, adding a bit of olive oil if necessary. Cut each roasted slice in 4 or 6 bite size pieces.
  4. In a large salad bowl, crumble the Bulgarian feta cheese with a fork. Add the chopped dill (and parsley to taste) and the shallots. Stir well and then add the crushed garlic cloves.
  5. Add the eggplants and the baked squash to the bowl, stirring. Chop the tomatoes in bite size cubes and add them to the mix. Finally, stir in the cooked quinoa. Be careful while stirring to not mash up the vegetables.
  6. Add a bit of balsamic vinegar and a bit of olive oil, to taste. Sprinkle with some freshly ground black pepper, stir and serve.

Serve sprinkled with some chopped fresh herbs, or with a pinch of chili pepper flakes for a spicy zest. You can choose to serve this salad warm or cold, in a small portion as an appetizer or as a main dish for a light lunch. Still, bear in mind that quinoa is a highly nutritious food.

Once you have adopted this salad, you can experiment and add a variety of vegetables to your taste, such as zucchini, beets, green beans, red peppers (or Bulgarian style roasted red peppers), etc., as well as the fresh herbs you like, such as thyme or basil.