I’ve finally found beautiful cheap pomegranates at the market again! I’d wanted to make a quinoa salad with pomegranate and za’atar for a while, and I was reminded of that by this quick and delicious-looking za’atar lentil salad that Martine from Vegetus posted last week. The salad pictured above takes a bit more time to make, but it does make a big bowl that lasts for days.
I’m trying to post more recipes this month because they’re a more effective way of explaining how I made something than just posting a long description, but it does bring challenges of its own. If I’m going to post a recipe, I kind of want to tell you about all the variations you could make in case you don’t like certain ingredients or if you’re short on time or don’t want to create too many dirty dishes – but too many sidenotes just make a dish seem unnecessarily complicated. I’ve made an attempt at a concise recipe below but you know, make whatever changes you want — salads are hard to mess up.
I didn’t add the onion until after I’d taken the photo but it was a real improvement, so I did include it in the recipe. I used a lot of coriander and parsley leaves because I needed to use them up, but I think rocket/arugula would be really good as well. In that case, you can definitely add more than a cup.
Quinoa salad with za’atar tofu and aubergine
1 cup dry quinoa (or 3 cups cooked)
2 cups water
1 450 g (1 pound) block tofu
olive oil for pan-frying
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons za’atar (or 2 teaspoons sumac, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon thyme and 1 teaspoon oregano)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 aubergine/eggplant (or 2-3 smaller ones), in 1/2-cm (1/4-inch) slices
olive oil for pan-frying
a pinch of salt
smoked paprika (optional)
1 cup herbs and/or rocket/arugula and/or other greens (I used parsley and coriander leaves)
1 cup pomegranate arils (that’s about one pomegranate)
1 red onion, halved and sliced
salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice for the dressing
1. First, prepare the quinoa. Rinse it in a sieve under cold water. Drain well, and place the quinoa and the 2 cups water in a pot with a lid. Bring the water to the boil. turn down the heat, and let the quinoa cook for about 15 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Take the pot off the heat and let the quinoa rest for a few minutes with the lid on. Then give it a stir and leave it to cool.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the tofu. I’m a big fan of this method from Olives for Dinner. First slice the block of tofu in half lengthwise and then cut each slice into six rectangles — they should be just the right size to fit into a frying pan. Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of olive oil and add the tofu. Cover the pan with a lid, and place over medium-high heat. The tofu will start to sizzle and sputter and that’s supposed to happen! Let it cook until the bottoms are nicely browned (depending on your preference; check after a few minutes), flip the pieces, and put the lid back on. Repeat these steps until at least some of the sides are crispy and bronwed.
3. If you have enough pans (if you don’t, skip to the next paragraph), you can fry the aubergine/eggplant at the same time. I used a grill pan, but a regular frying pan works too. Heat a bit of olive oil in the pan and fry the slices on both sides with a pinch of salt. If you want to make sure that the slices are soft, add a splash of white wine or water near the end of the cooking time to steam the slices a little. Once all the slices are cooked, you can add them back to the pan and sprinkle them with a few pinches of smoked paprika, then stir to coat.
I recently learned (also from Martine’s site!) that you can cook aubergines in the microwave as well: place the slices in a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, cover the bowl and steam them for about 7 minutes on high power.
Leave the cooked slices of aubergine to cool a little before adding them to the salad.
4. The tofu should be ready by now. (I know, this is kind of a lot of work for a salad, but we’re almost there.) Sprinkle the pieces with the lemon juice, take the pan off the heat, and add the za’atar and salt as well. Stir to coat the tofu, but don’t worry if not everything sticks; you can just mix it into the salad. If you don’t mind eating the salad with a fork and knife, you can leave the tofu pieces as is; you can also slice them into smaller pieces like I did.
5. Finally, take a big bowl and mix everything together: the quinoa, the tofu, the aubergine, the herbs/rocket/other leaves, the pomegranate arils, and the onion. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste and store in a covered bowl in the refrigerator.