February 26, 2014

Moroccan Chickpea & Freekeh Salad with Mint-Orange Dressing

Is anyone else getting sick of winter yet? I just spent some time last week enjoying outdoor activites like snowshoeing and skating, but usually by the time March rolls around, I've had my fill of snow and cold weather!

To help ward off the winter blahs, I've been incorporating more bright and fresh ingredients into my meals, like pineapple and citrus. I posted this citrus protein bowl recently, and this week I've been eating another orange-infused meal, this time with a Moroccan twist!

The recipe for this salad was inspired by a moroccan salad with cilantro-orange dressing that I saw on Pinch of Yum recently and immediately bookmarked. I love trying new combinations of ingredients in my meals that I don't normally eat for dinner, so I was intrigued by her addition of dates and pistachios into a bulgur salad.

For my version, I used freekeh instead of bulgur - a grain that is full of fiber and protein and has a sturdy, chewy texture that holds up well in salads like this one. I also added chickpeas to bulk up the dish a bit more into a main dish salad.

In addition to the orange, spinach, dates, and pistachios, I added some currants, olives, shallot, and parsley because I thought they would pair well with the other Moroccan flavours. I also changed up the dressing a bit, using mint instead of cilantro and adding some garlic and cumin for extra seasoning.

With all of those ingredients, this dish definitely had a lot of flavour! I liked the contrast of the salty olives against the sweetness of the dates and orange, with a bit of bite from the fresh parsley too. If you're not a fan of mint, I found it to be pretty subtle once the dressing was mixed in, but feel free to use the original suggestion of cilantro instead!

Moroccan Chickpea & Freekeh Salad with Mint-Orange Dressing
Adapted from Pinch of Yum

1 (145g) package freekeh (about 3/4 cup dry)
1 3/4 cups water
Dash of salt
1/2 cup dates, chopped (measure before chopping)
2 tbsp dried currants
2-3 cups packed baby spinach leaves (chopped if leaves are large)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 large navel orange
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1/4 cup unsalted pistachios

1 navel orange
1/3 cup packed mint leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp honey or agave nectar
Scant 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
Ground pepper

Prepare the dressing by adding all ingredients to a blender and pureeing until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.

Cook freekeh according to package directions (I brought the dry freekeh and water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan, then reduced the heat to low and cooked, covered, for 20-25 minutes). Remove from heat and add the chopped dates and currants to the pot. Keep covered for 5 minutes, then transfer everything to a large bowl.

Add the spinach and chickpeas to the bowl. Remove the skin of the orange using a knife and cut the orange into segments. Chop segments into smaller pieces and add to the bowl. Chop olives and add them as well, along with the parsley and shallot.

Heat a small skillet on medium heat and toast the pistachios for a few minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from heat and add to the bowl (you can skip the toasting part if you want).

Pour the dressing over everything and toss well to combine.

Makes 4 servings.

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