Levantine Fusion: Moroccan Style Red Quinoa with Arugula and a Sumac-Pimento Dressing

Upon my return from San Francisco, more than half of my suitcase contained exotic ingredients and sturdy cookware. Opening my suitcase was akin to children rummaging through their Christmas presents. But the excitement rose to fever pitch at the thought of experimenting and creating new dishes with those ingredients; some of which I had never used before. It was also a way of breaking away from the routine dishes that I became used to making, it was a means of interpreting and recreating  meals that I had in restaurants or cafes there to my tune. One of the ingredients that was teasing my culinary palate ever since I bought it was red quinoa. Even though I had eaten it at a few occasions, I had never brought it onto my own dinner table. Known as one of the healthiest grains, it has a colorful history as well as a successful forthcoming future. Historically, the Inca’s termed quinoa as the mother of all grains, while the United Nations has declared 2013 to be International Year of the Quinoa.

Levantine Fusion: Moroccan Style Red Quinoa with Arugula and a Sumac-Pimento Dressing

Packed with nutrients, quinoa is a source of complete protein, as well as dietary fiber. The best part about it is that it is gluten free, hence a good ingredient for those who are allergic to gluten. Not only that, its a source of calcium which is a great benefit to those who are lactose intolerant. With so many health benefits, its an ingredient everyone should have in their larder. Armed with quinoa I now had the task of coming up with a recipe for it. While scanning my spice cabinet, my eyes fell upon sachets of sumac. Those too I had bought back from the States. Sachets of sumac had accompanied the Persian food we had ordered in one night in San Francisco. My sister was ready to toss them away before I came to their rescue and packed them in my suitcase. Since, it wa a day of cooking with new ingredients, I thought what better day to inaugurate my new blender as well. That is how my Moroccan style red quinoa recipe was born.

Levantine Fusion: Moroccan Style Red Quinoa with Arugula and a Sumac-Pimento Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup mixed nuts (pine nuts and almonds)
  • Dressing: 3 tbsp plain yoghut
  • 3 long red chillies
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sumac
  • 1 tbsp honey

Preparation:

  • Cook the quinoa and couscous as per packet directions. Once cooked through leave to cool
  • For the dressing, add 1/4 of the red bell pepper, chillies and olive oil into a blender, blitz till roughly chopped
  • Pour in the yoghurt, honey and sumac, pulse till the dressing is smooth. Refrigerate till needed
  • In a bowl, toss together the arugula, quinoa, couscous, remaining red bell pepper, raisins, nuts and chopped cherry tomatoes
  • Season lightly with salt and pepper
  • Either mix the dressing into the salad or serve it side by side. Pour over the quinoa right before eating

Levantine Fusion: Moroccan Style Red Quinoa with Arugula and a Sumac-Pimento Dressing

The flavors of the quinoa and couscous were brought out by the sumac dressing. There was a balance of sweet, sour and spicy flavors. An easy to prepare recipe which both looks and tastes exotic. After I had made this recipe, I found a store nearby which sold ingredients from the Middle-East. I spotted pomegranate syrup, which is widely used in Middle-Eastern cooking. That will help with my next experiment, adding some of the syrup in this dressing. But for now it was perfect as is.

Levantine Fusion: Moroccan Style Red Quinoa with Arugula and a Sumac-Pimento Dressing