I was totally overwhelmed by the abundance of fresh food in Israel. Every time we sat down to the table, our generous hosts covered every available square inch with dishes to try. I, of course, couldn’t let one pass me by, so I always left the table feeling thoroughly stuffed and seriously spoiled.
In those stomach-clutching moments, I day-dreamed about going home to a simple quinoa salad and a glass of wine. The grass is always greener, isn’t it?
Honest to goodness, those dishes passed by so quickly that I hardly had a moment to dissect one before the next arrived. I had hoped to come home with a long list of dishes to recreate, but I’m left mostly with vague, game-changing impressions of flavors, colors, smells and sights. It was a whirlwind of a trip and a really wonderful experience.
Today, I thought I’d share a quinoa salad roughly inspired by my week in Israel. I’m throwing in a few photos to go along with it. The salad is based on a recipe that Jessa recited to me by memory. Jessa is the one petting the donkey in the photo below. She’s a smart, stylish, energetic lady who can tell you all about baking and fermentation and eco-friendly home-building materials.
I couldn’t resist adding more herbs and almonds, then some pomegranate and a dash of warming cinnamon, to satisfy my post-Israel trip taste buds. Please feel free to adjust the ingredients to suit your preferences—maybe you don’t like olives (leave them out) or you’re craving some creaminess (add crumbled goat cheese or feta). Maybe you’ll want to finish off the dish with another splash of rich olive oil. Go for it!
I should mention that my entire trip to Israel was covered by Kinetis/Vibe Israel, a non-profit group that hosts small groups of media professionals at a time and shows them around the country. My group (consisting of Ben and Jessa, Lee and Emily) was focused on wellness. I found the experience to be totally inspiring and I genuinely want to share it with you guys. Opinions are mine, of course, and I’m not receiving any compensation for my time or promotion.
I took the mountain scene photo on the grounds of the Ein Gedi Spa near the Dead Sea, the fruit at Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, the pomegranate in the backyard of former basketball player/cancer survivor Doron Sheffer in Amirim, the donkey at the home of vegan chef Hagit Lidror in Klil, and the vegan feast at Green Village Restaurant in Tel Aviv. I bought the beautiful blue bowl at Kibbutz Harduf, a community that rehabilitates those with special needs through therapy, crafts and organic farming in lower Galilee. Check out Lee’s trip summary post for a better play by play of our Israel experience!
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1/3 cup slivered almonds
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1/3 cup fresh pomegranate arils
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries or raisins
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced Kalamata olives (and/or 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about two medium lemons, juiced)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Several twists of freshly ground black pepper
- To cook the quinoa: First, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh colander under running water for a minute or two. In a medium-sized pot, combine the rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then cover the pot, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the quinoa from heat and let it rest, still covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover the pot, drain off any excess water and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set it aside to cool.
- To toast the almonds: In a small skillet, heat the almonds over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until they are fragrant and turning golden on the edges. Don't let them burn! Transfer toasted almonds to your serving bowl to cool.
- To prepare the dressing: Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, cinnamon and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
- Final assembly: In your serving bowl, in addition to the almonds, combine the quinoa, chopped mint and parsley, pomegranate, cranberries and olives or cheese. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Taste and mix in additional salt, pepper and/or olive oil if necessary. Serve right away or refrigerate for later.
Keep it vegan/dairy free: Don't add cheese.
Make it nut free: Substitute pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for the almonds.
Storage suggestions: This salad will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for a few days.