There is nothing authentic about this dish. In fact, my grandmother would probably raise an eyebrow from her grave at the thought of using quinoa in a “Persian” dish. Truth be told, I am pretty sure she would have never heard of quinoa. For those of you who are not familiar with quinoa, it is a highly nutritious seed with mild nutty flavour that originated in South America. It is often used as a substitute for grains such as rice or couscous and I think it’s the perfect base for salads.
This dish was inspired by my favourite Persian breakfast – toasted Persian barbarry bread, feta cheese and fresh dates. I love the combination of the salty, creamy feta cheese and the sweet dates. The mint adds freshness and the pine nuts add a nutty flavour. Enjoy this salad as a side dish or a healthy and delicious light lunch.
Quinoa Salad with Feta, Dates & Mint
1 cup quinoa
2 green onions* (green & white parts) sliced thinly
1 cup chopped dates (preferably medjool or fresh)**
120 grams good sheep milk feta cheese, cubed
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey
salt and pepper
Rinse the quinoa well in a sieve. If you do not do this the quinoa might have a bitter taste.
Bring 1 1/4 cup water to boil. Add the strained quinoa. Turn down the heat to low, cover and simmer for 12 minutes. Take it off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a spoon.
Cool the quinoa. In order to cool it faster, spread it out onto a cookie sheet.
In a bowl, combine the cooled quinoa, the dates, feta, green onions and the mint. Toast the pine nuts by heating a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the pine nuts and stir frequently or shake the pan for about 4-5 minutes until the pine nuts become fragrant and lightly toasted. Watch carefully! They can go from toasted to burnt quickly.
Add the pine nuts to the quinoa mixture. Whisk the olive oil, apple cider vinegar and the honey in a small bowl. Pour over the quinoa salad and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Chill for at least 30 minutes. Enjoy!
*If you find the taste of green onions strong, you can just use the green part which has a milder flavour.
**You can find fresh dates at Persian supermarkets. Medjool dates are available at most regular supermarkets.