Tastes like Marrakesh – oriental red quinoa salad

I have a very special relationship with Marrakesh. I love to think about it and I can daydream a lot about walking through the souqs and living in a colourful riad, but the truth is I’ve never been there. At least I tried pretty hard to get there. But sometimes if you try too hard it will probably never happen. The first flight tickets to Marrakesh I bought for Thomas’ birthday two years ago. We were really exited and very much looking forward to go there. Little we knew. The deadline of a job we did together was delayed and fell exactly in the time and space when we actually wanted to be in Morocco. The next pair of tickets was cancelled when our friend, an astrologer, told us not to go because it was – astrologically speaking – a very very bad timing. The client who delayed the job the first time did the same thing with the next job so our third try to reach Marrakesh failed as well. I think this was the moment when we stopped booking flights to Marrakesh and went to Barcelona … So Marrakesh will probably forever be my personal Atlantis, always dreamt about, never reached.

Let’s just travel there in our thoughts. Meet me in the heart of the city in a lush garden that once belonged to Yves Saint Laurent and let’s enjoy this beautiful oriental salad together.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1 cup red quinoa (if you can’t get red quinoa just buy regular quinoa)

Footnote: Did you know that quinoa is actually not a grain, even when the Incas referred to quinoa as “the mother of all grains” and held it to be sacred? Quinoa is actually a plant and has a very high protein content and a pretty balanced set of essential amino acids.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds (see below: How to de-seed a pomegranate)
  • 1/3 cup pan roasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 4 dried figs, chopped
  • 1/4 cup coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 cups (or two big handfuls) arugula leaves

For the dressing:

  • peel and juice of one organic, untreated, orange
  • 1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • pepper and salt to taste

Place one cup quinoa and 2 cups water in a middle sized saucepan, add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all water is absorbed, for about 15 minutes. In the meantime mix the cucumber, pomegranate seeds (see below “How to de-seed a pomegranate”), roasted pine nuts, dried cranberries and chopped figs with the coriander, mint and arugula leaves in a big salad bowl. Mix all ingredients for the dressing. When the quinoa is ready, mix everything together and enjoy your personal piece of Morocco.

How to se-seed a pomegranate:

Most people don’t know how to de-seed a pomegranate and I was no exception until one day I saw “The naked chef” with Jamie Oliver who disclosed the secret: Cut the pomegranate in two halves, take a big bowl and hit the pomegrante with a wooden spoon so the seeds just “jump out” and into the bowl (see the picture below).

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