I often visit the local farmers’ market on the weekend to buy local produce. This past weekend I purchased a number of ripe kiwi fruit and this spice mix called za’atar.
Za’atar is this lovely spice mix from the Middle East. The Lebanese variety consists of thyme, ground sumac, sesame seeds and sea salt. It can be mixed with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and tahini (sesame seed paste) and used as a topping on pita bread. The first time I tasted za’atar was at the age of 9 – it was heavenly! Of course, today in the kitchen, I decided to try the za’atar mix with cooked quinoa and then incorporated the quinoa into my salad mix. Since I also had ripe kiwi fruit on hand, I decided to replace the cucumber in this salad with kiwi fruit. It was the perfect storm!
The sweetness of the kiwi blends well with the creaminess of the quinoa and potatoes. The za’atar adds a crisp tartness and a nice complexity. The salad contains cooked Quinoa, tomatoes, red potatoes, kiwi, cilantro leaves and an olive oil/za’atar/lemon juice dressing. The red potatoes are optional but make the salad a little heartier. If you’re not a fan of cilantro, you can replace it with parsley or mint or basil leaves. This recipe makes enough salad for 4 people.
Quinoa Salad Ingredients:
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa seeds
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp canola oil
- 2 roma tomatoes (small/medium sized), chopped finely
- 2-3 ripe kiwis, peeled and chopped
- 1 small bunch of chopped cilantro
- 4-5 small/medium red potatoes, washed, boiled and diced (with enough water to cover the potatoes and a pinch of salt)
- Dressing – see details below.
Place a small saucepan on the stove on medium high. Rinse the quinoa seeds in water a few times. Add 1 teaspoon of the canola oil. When the oil/pan is hot, add the quinoa, salt and bay leaf. Stir once and then add 2 cups of room temperature water. Stir again. Place a lid on the saucepan. When the mixture comes to a boil, lower the stove to low. The quinoa will take 15 minutes to cook.
This is the perfect time to also wash the red potatoes. I recommend chopping the potatoes in half once, and then placing them in a boiling pot of water (add a pinch of salt in the water) for 20 minutes – until tender.
While you are waiting for the quinoa and potatoes to cook, wash, peel and chop the kiwis. Wash and chop the tomatoes and cilantro. Set aside.
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspooon minced fresh thyme (or dried thyme)
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted and ground
- 1 teaspoon ground sumac (red color)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 small garlic clove, diced finely
- 1 green chili pepper, chopped finely (optional)
Toast 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds on a skillet, at medium heat. Then using a mortar & pestle or alternative spice grinder, grind the toasted sesame seeds to a paste. Add a few drops of olive oil to help grind to a paste if necessary. You can also purchase sesame seed paste at the grocery store. The sesame seed paste (called tahini) is made using the seeds only (not husk) and is usually more smooth than the homemade version.
In a small bowl whisk together the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, sumac, sesame seeds (1 tsp), sesame seed paste, salt and the chili pepper. Set this dressing aside.
When the quinoa has cooked, place it in a large mixing bowl. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Spread out the quinoa in the bowl to help it cool down.
When the potatoes cook through and are tender, remove from the boiling water. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then dice into 1/2″ pieces. Add to the quinoa.
Then add the tomatoes, kiwis and cilantro. Pour the dressing on top of the mixture and mix well. Serve as a salad or as a side.
Some interesting facts about kiwis: Kiwi fruit contain as much potassium as bananas, and also contain fiber, Zinc, Vitamin A, C and E. The black seeds of the kiwi fruit can be crushed to produce kiwi fruit oil, which is very rich in Alfa-Linoleic Acid (an important Omega-3 essential fatty acid). Kiwi fruit also have a low glycemic index (52)!