Day 74 – Recipe: Eggplant and Fresh Herb Quinoa Tabbouleh (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free)

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I’m getting a little confused about which day I’m on but I think it’s day 74. I wish it was day 364. When I’m home or when I’m at a vegan restaurant I don’t mind being on this diet, but whenever I’m out at a restaurant that has amazing smelling meat or pizza or waffles or bacon – you get the picture – I just can’t stand it, I get depressed. I love food so much, and being restrictive in my diet feels so unnatural to me. Sometimes I just want to say screw it and eat some boneless wings. The last couple weeks have been really hard. I’ve definitely eaten some things I shouldn’t have eaten (they were vegan, but processed) and I feel guilty about it. I hate feeling guilty. I wish this diet was easy. It’s not. I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m doing it because I don’t want someone to take a scalpel to my throat and cut me open. God that really sounds horrible.

Anyways, for about 2 months we had fresh basil and mint growing in our kitchen and I rarely used it. About a month and a half into it we started having a severe gnat issue and I couldn’t take it anymore – my boyfriend took the herbs to his parent’s house in Sedona to plant in their garden. Less than a week later I came across this recipe with copious amounts of both fresh mint and basil and was like Damn The Irony! Fortunately we were going to see his parents over the weekend and they brought us a bunch of herbs so I could make the dish. Yay!

So I found this recipe in Shape magazine, I changed it a lot but the original recipe is from Clotilde Dusoulier’s new vegetarian cookbook, The French Market Cookbook. She used whole wheat couscous in her recipe, to make it gluten-free I opted for quinoa. I think it turned out really good. The herbs kind of overpowered the eggplant, mostly because I used spearmint which is too strong for this recipe, I would suggest using Mojito mint which is much milder. Also her recipe called for harissa, which I couldn’t find anywhere, so I used an Asian chili paste instead, I think it worked just as well. So here is my version:

Eggplant and Fresh Herb Quinoa Tabbouleh

Serves 8 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 Lbs small Italian eggplants
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1.5 cups white quinoa
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T tahini
  • 1 T harissa or Asian chili paste
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh mojito mint leaves, sliced
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, sliced

Directions:

  1. Cut eggplant into small 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a colander, sprinkle generously with salt, then toss to coat; let rest 1 hour. Rinse thoroughly. Turn onto a clean kitchen towel, roll up, and squeeze gently to absorb liquid.
  2. While eggplant is resting, mince the onion. Place minced onion, quinoa, 1 tsp sea salt, and 3 cups water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool. (To cool faster, spread onto a baking sheet and chill in the fridge.)
  3. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Place eggplant cubes in skillet and toss well, until coated in oil. When eggplant is hot, cover and let steam in skillet for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Eggplant should be very tender. Set aside to cool.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk tahini and harissa or chili paste. Whisk in lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, making sure it is incorporated before adding more to prevent curdling. Whisk til smooth.
  5. Pour the dressing over cooled quinoa and toss to combine. Fold in eggplant, mint, basil and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Enjoy!

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I served this dish with another Greek-inspired salad that I will post tomorrow. You can serve it with falafels, dolmas, hummus, pretty much any Mediterranean food, or just eat it by itself.

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It has a hint of spice to it but overall is pretty mild. If you want more spice, add more chili paste.

 

Day 5 – Mojito Fruit Salad

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I’ve been told to eat a lot of fruit. Thankfully I love fruit, so that’s not really a problem, the only problem was that I had a giant watermelon in my fridge that was taking up way too much space.

Before I started on this diet, one of my last meals was a yummy brunch at one of our favorite local spots, Vintage 95 in Chandler. They offered a fruit salad as a side option, it was so good that I ate more fruit than anything else on my plate. Since I had to do something with the giant watermelon, I figured why not make that delicious salad. Here’s what I came up with:

Mojito Fruit Salad

  • 1/4 of a large seedless watermelon (around 3 cups)
  • 10 organic strawberries
  • 1/3 of a sweet pineapple
  • 3 organic persian cucumbers
  • 3 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 3 T raw honey
  • 2 – 3 T fresh mint – chopped

Directions

Chop all of the fruit (and the cucumber) into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl. Whisk the last 4 ingredients in a small bowl until smooth, then pour over the fruit. Mix well and serve. Best eaten within 1 day. Serves 8. (or 2 if you eat it all day like I did)

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It was reaaaaalllly good. Almost exactly like what we’d eaten at the restaurant. The cucumbers give the salad a really nice crunch, and also add a pretty color to the mix. We have fresh mint growing in our kitchen so this was a perfect dish to utilize some of the excess. If you’re in the mood for something sweet and refreshing, I highly recommend this salad over ice cream, I guarantee you will feel much better afterwards 🙂