The Spice Chronicles: Cumin

The Spice Chronicles: Cumin

The versatility of cumin is well-represented in this easy, satisfying salad recipe for Moroccan Quinoa Salad from cookbook author and Life & Thyme contributor Nicole Gulotta.

Back in 2010, my boss returned from a trip to Casablanca with tins of spices in her suitcase. She brought me cumin from a market, along with stories about the fragrance and heat on those long desert days. The first thing I did with my treasured powder was make a dressing. I was in a bit of a quinoa phase, and doused a fluffy grain salad with a cumin-spiced lemon vinaigrette. Next, I sprinkled it over chicken before grilling breasts for burritos, and stirred it into an inky pot of black beans simmering on the stove. In my kitchen, using up the whole jar of cumin isn’t a matter of if, but when.

If a bowl of greens and grains is to serve as a meal, it needs some tending to. Texture is paramount. With crunchy almonds, salty feta, slivers of crinkly kale, and sweet golden raisins, every bite pleases the palate. I’ve toted this dish to potlucks and picnics, and eaten it as leftovers for a couple of day’s worth of lunches. You can add an avocado to round things out, or even a slab of grilled salmon.

A brief note on massaging kale: take the time. It’s only a few minutes of effort, and you’ll watch the leaves wilt under the pressure of your fingers and become tender and glossy, coated in oil. It’s well worth getting your hands in there, and having to scrub off a tinge of green from your skin.


Moroccan Quinoa Salad With Creamy Cumin Dressing

For the dressing:

  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons honey
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:

  • 1 cup quinoa, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 small bunch Tuscan kale, ribs removed, leaves torn and washed
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup lightly packed mint, chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Make the dressing:

Toast cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Crush in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, until mostly ground. Add cumin to a glass measuring cup, along with the yogurt, lemon juice, salt and honey. Add oil and whisk until smooth and creamy. Be sure to give it a taste, adding a bit more honey if you’d like. Refrigerate until you’re ready to toss the salad. (If you don’t use cumin seed, use the same amount of ground, just skip the toasting and crushing steps. It won’t be quite as aromatic, but still delicious.)

Make the salad:

Rinse quinoa and place into a medium stock pot along with the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover; cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Once all the water has been absorbed, let quinoa rest 10 minutes, covered, off heat before fluffing with a fork. (If you forget to soak the quinoa, just use 1 ¾ cup water instead and cook for 14 minutes.)

While the quinoa cooks, turn your attention to the kale. Add torn kale to a large bowl and top with extra cumin, a pinch of salt, and the oil. Massage with your hands for two to three minutes, until tender. Add 3 cups of quinoa to the kale (save the rest to add to pancake batter), then follow with the herbs, chickpeas, almonds, raisins and feta. Drizzle with half the dressing and toss to combine, adding more dressing as needed.

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