My friend Anne and I have a new tradition called “ingredient potlucks.” It involves meeting up after work, comparing notes about what each of us has in the fridge, and coming up with a meal that is quick, healthy, and really tasty. Last time we did this, we came up with a delicious sweet potato, brown rice, lentil and hemp salad with hemp oil and a mustardy glaze. Last Thursday, we weren’t even sure we could do an ingredient potluck, because we were both running a little short on groceries. That said, necessity is the mother of invention, and I think you’ll be impressed with our final creation: a simple-yet-flavorful mixture of quinoa with roasted eggplant, red peppers, and balsamic vinaigrette.
Earlier that week, I had made my kale salad with apples, raisins, and creamy curried dressing, which I posted yesterday. Since I had more kale on hand, and more carrots, and one more apple, and some raisins, I decided to make it again. I was out of walnuts for the dressing, though, so I used cashews, and realized that it’s just as good with cashews, and a little more neutral-tasting. When I got to Anne’s, she had beets to spare, so we added those to the salad. What a great addition they were!
For our entrée, we did something similar to what we had done last time: a mish mosh of grains and legumes, spruced up with a good vinaigrette. Anne had quinoa and red peppers; I had some eggplant I’d grilled up and had yet to use.
- 1 pound eggplant (1 small eggplant), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 cup (dry) quinoa
- 1½ cups cooked chickpeas or cannellini beans (1 can beans, drained and rinsed)
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded, stem removed, and diced (you can substitute 1 cup chopped roasted red peppers if you have a jar in your pantry or you roast them regularly in the summer)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
- Preheat oven to 400F. Place the eggplant pieces in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt. Stir the eggplant with your hands and allow it to sit for 20-30 minutes, or until you see beads of moisture forming on the eggplant cubes. Pat the cubes dry with a paper towel.*
- Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Spread the eggplant pieces on one sheet and drizzle evenly with the olive oil. Use your hands to gently toss the cubes in the oil to coat them evenly, then give them another light sprinkle of salt and black pepper.
- Transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Allow the eggplant to roast for 15 minutes. Remove it from the oven and stir to prevent pieces from sticking. Return it to the oven and let it roast for another 20 minutes, or until it's tender and gently caramelized.
- While the eggplant roasts, rinse the quinoa under running water in a fine sieve for about a minute. combine the quinoa with 2 cups water in a medium sized saucepan, add a pinch of salt, and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the quinoa, and allow it to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the quinoa from heat, fluff with a fork, re-cover, and allow it to steam for about 5-10 minutes.
- When the eggplant and quinoa are ready, combine them in a large mixing bowl with the chickpeas or cannellini beans and red bell pepper. Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, oil, garlic, and oregano, along with ¼ teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper. Add these ingredients to the eggplant and quinoa mixture. Toss everything to combine well, then adjust seasonings to taste. Serve.
Along with the salad, this was so tasty. Its heartiness complimented the crispy kale well!
Of course, you don’t have to use roasted eggplant as your vegetable of choice. Zucchini, broccoli, summer squash, mushrooms, and many other vegetables would work nicely here.
Next time you’re meeting up with a friend, you might want to consider an ingredient potluck, too! It’s a really fun way to pool together resources, improvise, and challenge yourself to creating something unexpected.
Tomorrow, I have a green recovery story for you that took the author a month and a half to write and send to me. The thoughtfulness and sincerity she poured into the piece is evident, and I hope you’ll all enjoy it!