Harissa Curried Quinoa Salad

Walking through this city with friends or family from other places always helps me see and appreciate my home with fresh eyes. My parents spent last weekend with us, and we did what Sutherlands do best – spent time cooking, eating, and shopping for the next cooking/eating experience. It’s what we do.

When my parents visit, I choose a Chicago neighborhood for a day of casual exploration, peeking into any shop that looks interesting and hitting a few of my favorite foodie haunts. This year, I decided it was high-time I took Mom & Dad to Old Town.

Old Town is both hip and cozy, so far as city ‘hoods go. There’s lots of interesting little boutiques, but the highlights for me are a trio of shops where my wallet seems to empty of its own accord, without my noticing or caring what the total tab comes to. Old Town Oil, The Spice House and Fleet Feet Sports are snuggled up together on Wells Street, with another favorite foodie spot, Adobo Grill right next door. It’s two blocks of heaven for me.

The ladies at Old Town Oil can always talk me into another bottle of oil or vinegar, and the gleaming casks free for sampling make it an easy sale…this trip I walked out with spicy Harissa oil – not knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it, just knowing that I HAD to have it.

We’ve since decided that the killer application for this spicy treat is to brush it on some fresh, farm stand sweet corn with a sprinkling of sea salt…the contrast of the HOT oil with the sweet kernels popping against my teeth may be my favorite summer treat so far. I think you should definitely have a bottle of this oil in your pantry.

The quinoa salad uses some harissa oil which plays beautifully against the curried quinoa and the orange juice in the vinaigrette gives it just a hint of sweetness to bring it back from the fiery brink. Toss in whatever summer veggies you have lingering in the crisper – don’t get hung up on the list below – use what you’ve got. The salad is light and filling enough for a perfect summer picnic.

Harissa Curried Quinoa Salad
Serves 7

1 1/2 cups dried quinoa
3 cups water
1 T hot curry powder
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup dried chickpeas, cooked (or 1 can chickpeas)
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced,
1 jalepeno, finely diced
4 ears fresh sweet corn, cooked & sliced off the cob
handful of cilantro, chopped
fennel fronds, chopped (optional – I just had some on hand)

1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (from 1-2 oranges)
1/4 cup harissa olive oil (or a spoonful of harissa paste + reg olive oil)
1 T whole grain mustard
salt to taste

  1. Cook the quinoa in your rice cooker (or on the stove), with 3 cups water, 1 T hot curry powder and 1/2 tsp salt. When the quinoa is done, scoop it into a large mixing bowl and fluff it with a fork. Let it cool to room temperature.
  2. To make the salad, chop all of the peppers, slice the corn off the cob, chop the cilantro & fennel fronds (if using), and add them to the cooled quinoa along with the rinsed and drained chickpeas. Gently stir everything together with a spatula.
  3. Make the dressing. Squeeze the oranges into a measuring cup until you have a 1/2 cup of juice. Pour in 1/4 cup of harissa olive oil (or 1/4 cup regular olive oil + a spoonful or two of harissa paste) and a good dollop of whole grain mustard and whisk together with a fork. Add salt to taste – the dressing should be pretty highly seasoned, as it will be flavoring the whole vat of salad. Pour the dressing over the quinoa mixture and gently stir together with a spatula. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve, or scoop into storage containers for lots of great lunch leftovers!

314 cal per 1 1/2 cups, 11g fat, 150mg sodium, 450mg potassium, 46g carbs, 8g fiber, 3g sugars, 10g protein

    Sunday morning Sunrise from our balcony before breakfast with my parents…another reason I love my home.

    Basil Hummus

    When I took the gluten-free plunge 8 years ago, I found parties to be particularly difficult. I LOVE food (as you may have guessed), and the sight of a party table loaded with treats that I could not eat made me so sad. At the start of my long climb back to real health, I ate a very restricted, simple diet to help heal my wounded digestive system – “snack” foods were out. As I racked my brain for ideas of what I could bring to a party to eat – my love affair with hummus began. I then arrived at every party with a platter of chopped veggies and exotically flavored hummus in hand.

    Homemade hummus is worlds better than most of what you find stacked in shiny plastic tubs at your local grocery. And if you take the extra step of cooking your own chickpeas (Rancho Gordo, of course) – you’ll really have something revelatory on your hands. Once you’ve got your chickpeas cooked, all hummus takes is a few ingredients and a spin in the food processor to make a high-protein snack that satisfies.

    This particular version is my summertime favorite – a hummus that is green in color from all that fresh basil whipped into the beans. While the season is currently far from summer, I did stockpile a bunch of pureed basil and olive oil in the freezer for these cold months, so I popped a couple of the thawed herb cubes into the mix.

    Now that I’ve learned to eat wide and deep into the world of fresh foods, I don’t feel at all handicapped when attending parties and my dish-to-pass is likely a little more interesting than a bowl of hummus with veggies. A scoop of hummus and a bag of chopped veggies is still a favorite treat for afternoons at the office, and my friend Rachel also reports that her 2 year-old daughter loves this hummus,  so it’s a kid-approved snack too!

    What’s your favorite way to enjoy hummus? Share your thoughts in the comments below…

    Basil Hummus
    Serves: a party

    1 clove garlic
    3 cups of home-cooked chickpeas
    6 T tahini
    2 T olive oil
    1/4 cup water
    juice of half a lemon
    dash of cayenne
    1/2 cup packed basil
    salt & pepper to taste
    1. Combine the tahini and olive oil in a measuring cup and stir to combine. Set aside. Combine the water and lemon juice in a cup and set aside.
    2. Place the clove of garlic in the food processor and pulse until minced. Add the chick peas and cayenne and puree for a minute until pulverized. Scrape down the bowl. With the machine running, pour the water and lemon juice in slowy. Stop and scrape down the bowl again and add the basil leaves. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the tahini/oil mixture. When the mixture is smooth, stop to taste it – add salt & pepper to taste. If it still needs to be thinned out a bit, add in a little more water and pulse for a few seconds to incorporate. Serve with hearty tortilla chips, crackers or veggies.
    3. Alternate variations for hummus: Instead of basil, drop in a couple of roasted red bell peppers. Or, add a hefty spoon of your favorite mild chile powder or smoked paprika for an exotic feel.

    70 cal per 3T, 30 cal from fat, 3.6g fat, 75mg sodium, 80mg potassium, 7g carb, 2g fiber, 2.6g protein