Celebrating Whole Foods – Quinoa Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables & Harissa

Quinoa Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables & Harissa | My Blue&White Kitchen

I love cookbooks, they're my weakness. I read them like other people read novels; at the breakfast table, on the beach, before I go to bed, and everywhere in between. There's an ever-changing list of cookbooks I need to buy. It's a real challenge as new, exciting cookbooks are published almost every month and there are still a bunch of classics that I'm short of.

A good cookbooks is not only a selection of delicious recipes. Yes, sometimes mouthwatering and genius recipes alone will do but that really is the exception. As the market is overflowing with cookbooks these days, only the very best survive. I look for a strong author's voice, glorious photography, inspiring recipes, and preferably matte paper (yeah, I have a strong opinion on that one too).

The food world was shaken by excitement when Amy Chaplin published her book At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well in the US last fall. There were blog posts (last minute update: I absolutely love this post from Kathryn of London Bakes!), IG pics of dishes prepared from Amy's book (a special thank you to Sonja of Dagmar's Kitchen for all the inspiration), and a James Beard Award. There was also that spicy chickpea stew Lindsey of dolly and oatmeal blogged about and that I found myself preparing and eating every other week or so. I knew that this was a book that ranked really high on my cookbook wishlist. Needless to say, I was beyond excited when I got an email from Amy a couple of months ago. Would I be interested in a copy of her book that was about to be (finally) published in the UK and Australia in June? Are you kidding me? Yes!

It's hard to live up to anyone's expectations and I must confess that because of all that hype around the book my expectations were pretty high. Amy's book, however, won my heart from the minute I ripped open the mailing box. This is not only a cookbook but a guide. A guide to living and eating well, consciously, and sustainably. Amy guides you through her eating philosophy, her pantry, and basic ways to prepare whole foods. It's all done in an inspiring and positive way; she isn't judging. You're simply inspired to adopt her ideas and incorporate her way of cooking and eating into your everyday life.

The book is filled with glorious looking, delicious vegetarian recipes. At this point, I must pinpoint how well Johnny Miller has been able to capture the beauty of this book; his photography is one the reasons why this book is so fascinating. Amy has a talent of combining different flavors and textures into an exciting dish. Although most of her recipes are vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free, they don't feel like they're lacking of anything. In the last couple of weeks, I've prepared several dishes: red lentil soup (so simple yet full of flavor! definitely going to include it into our menu when I'm going on a hiking trip to Lapland with some friends later this month), quinoa betroot salad (went totally crazy over it), and beetroot chickpea cakes (yes, please) to name a few. And I'm still looking for more! Cherry coconut granola, black sesame flaxseed dressing, strawberry rose kanten, aubergine curry... Yeah, I'm excited and inspired. So inspired.

It was hard to choose which recipe to share with you here on the blog. So many delicious options! As the book's salad section was especially appealing to me, I decided to share a summery salad with you guys. This quinoa salad was the first dish I made from the book once I got it (on the very first day I may add). I love all the different textures and flavors, the fact that it's straightforward to make (don't be scared by the multiple components), keeps well for hours or even a day or two, and is perfect to share with a group of friends or to take to a picnic or to the beach. I made a few small changes to the original recipe: I chose to grill the veggies on the grill instead of roasting them in the oven and left out olives because of personal preferences. Amy has an excellent, super easy and quick to make harissa paste recipe in her book but you can certainly use store-bought harissa as well. However, I strongly encourage you to make your own.

Hope you're enjoying some sunny days on the beach...preferably with a large serving of this salad. Let's all celebrate a bowl of whole food goodness!

Quinoa Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables & Harissa

Slightly adapted from At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well by Amy Chaplin

serves 4 to 6

You can either grill the vegetables on the grill or roast them in the oven. I've included instructions for both methods below.

In the recipe, you're asked to roll cut the zucchinis. This is a really great cutting technique resulting in nice, interesting looking pieces. So how does it work? You simply slice off pieces at a 45-degree angle and make a quarter turn between each cut. Notice that the cut is always made in the same place. You can check out this tutorial from Saveur.


2 zucchinis, roll cut into 2,5 cm (1") pieces
2 red bell peppers, deseeded & cut into 2,5 cm (1") pieces
300 g (5 dl; 2 cups) cherry tomatoes, large ones cut in half
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
fine sea salt
1 red onion, cut into ~1,5 cm (½") wedges
720 g (10 dl; 4 cups) cooked white or red quinoa, cooled (about 170 g / 1 cup uncooked)
5 ⅓ tbsp (⅓ cup) harissa
40 g (2 ½ dl; 1 cup) chopped flat-leaf parsley
140 g feta, drained & crumbled

If you choose to grill the vegetables on the grill, prepare the grill. If you're roasting the vegetables in the oven, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Put zucchinis, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes into a bowl and toss with 3 tbsp of olive oil and ½ tsp salt. Mix until everything is well coated. Grill vegetables on the grill until tender and grill marks appear. Alternatively, divide vegetables between baking sheets and spread out into a single layer. Roast for 25 minutes. Stir, rotate trays, and roast for 10 more minutes, or until browning. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

To caramelize the onion, warm 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion wedges and sauté for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat a bit and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every now and then, or until soft and wonderfully caramelized. Add a pinch of salt and set aside to cool.

Put quinoa into a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Add harissa paste and mix well. Add the grilled vegetables, caramelized onions, and parsley. Toss to combine. Season to taste with more salt. Top with crumbled feta and serve. 

The salad keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days. Just bring it back to room temperature before serving.

Quinoa Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables & Harissa | My Blue&White Kitchen

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen from the publisher, Jacqui Small LLP, free of charge. However, I wasn't compensated for this review. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Glorious Green Couscous Salad

Green Couscous Salad | My Blue&White Kitchen

A few weeks ago I was at the grocery store wondering what to make for dinner. I stood in the middle of the vegetable section seeking inspiration. What should I make? My mind was blank. And then I knew it: couscous salad. I took my phone, typed "couscous Ottolenghi", and hit the search button. Scrolling. Finally my eyes locked on the title that said "Green couscous". There it was: my dinner inspiration. Thank heaven!

Why Ottolenghi, you may ask. Well, there are certain guys whose taste buds I truly trust and Yotam Ottolenghi surely is one of them. His recipes never fail to amaze me, and his take on food, especially vegetables, is quite unique. If you haven't made his recipes yet, I encourage you to dive into his culinary world, and if you don't have his books yet, I encourage you to run to the next bookstore. Like right now even if the temperatures are below zero (greetings from the north, everyone!).

The original recipe calls for parsley but I used kale instead. Actually, this was a result of a misunderstanding. You see, I thought I had a bunch of parsley in my fridge, but as I realized once I got home, I didn't. What I had, however, was kale. Thankfully, it turned out that kale worked great in this recipe! I, furthermore, omitted the green chili and added some tanginess with freshly squeezed lime juice. Inspired by the Israeli Couscous Salad from David Lebovitz, I added some dried fruit when I made it for the second time yesterday. I think the dried fruit made this salad even better and more interesting than it already was.

This salad is one of the best things I've eaten in a while. Packed with herbs and flavor, it makes a great side or main dish. The first time, I had it with grilled salmon and plain yogurt. Yesterday, I first had a serving for lunch and served it as a side with veal roast for dinner. I can also imagine that it would be lovely served with braised lamb or basically any kind of grilled fish. To make a vegetarian-friendly meal, top it with grilled halloumi or feta and pomegranate seeds.

It's a great dish to serve for brunch or a get-together. It's pretty to look at, relatively quick to make (ready in 15 minutes), and can easily be made ahead; it will keep in the fridge for up to two days. Awesome work lunch, anyone? Double or triple the recipe as needed and be ready to respond to numerous recipe enquiries.

Green Couscous Salad

adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, p. 255
serves 4

2 ½ dl (1 cup) whole-wheat couscous
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp ground cumin

for the herb paste
packed 1 heaping dl (packed ½ cup) roughly chopped kale
2 ½ dl (1 cup) chopped cilantro
2 tbsp chopped tarragon
2 tbsp chopped dill
2 tbsp chopped mint
6 tbsp olive oil

1 heaping dl (½ cup) unsalted & shelled pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 large handfuls of arugula, chopped
lime juice, to taste
1 heaping dl (½ cup) diced dried fruit, such as apricots, cherries, cranberries, or sultanas

optional: plain yogurt, to serve

In a small pot, bring 160 ml (¾ cup) water to a boil. Take off the heat, add couscous, cover, and leave for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, fry the onion on medium-high heat until soft and golden. Add salt and cumin. Mix and let cool slightly.

To make the herb paste, place all ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth. Set aside.

Combine the couscous and herb paste in a large bowl. Use a fork to fluff up the couscous. Add the onions, pistachios, and arugula. Add lime juice to taste. Finally, top with the dried fruit. Serve lukewarm.

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Welcoming Fall – Warm Chèvre Salad with Grapes, Heirloom Apples, & Walnuts

It can't be denied anymore; fall came here to stay. Fallen leaves mark my way home from farmers' markets where apples appear in all kinds of colors and shapes. Apples truly are the heroes of fall: local, tasty, and immensely versatile. 

Pink Lady, Golden Delicious, Gala – do yourself a favor and leave those ones at the store. There are so many local heirloom apples to discover! They burst with flavor and are often fierier than their highly commercial counterparts that often are downright boring. My granny used to have apple trees growing in her backyard. I loved to harvest the different varieties and discover their unique flavors; my favorite always was a variety called cinnamon apple which had not only a perfect balance of sweet and sour but, as its name says, a delicate cinnamon flavor. Nowadays I either head to a friend's backyard (like last Sunday and again today) or buy apples at one of those farmers' market stalls that sell apples till it gets too cold to stand outside all day long.

Apple pie may be the first thing that pops into your mind when spotting an apple tree heavy with fruit but they're also lovely in savory dishes, such as with pork. Salads are ridiculously easy to adapt according to the season. Therefore, I often start the shift in seasons on my plate with a seasonal salad. Here I combined crisp apples with the earthy flavors of walnuts, sweet red grapes, and creamy goat cheese and finished it with a walnut vinaigrette. This salad stays interesting till the very last bite.

The perfect way to welcome fall.

P.S. As the vibrant fall colors and apple galore always reminds me of Canada, its lovely people, and all the delicious food I've enjoyed there, I have to mention you the new Canadian group baking blog BAKED. The forces working behind this space are some of the most creative and inspiring ones that the food blogging world has to offer: Laura, Kelly, Gabriel, Kris, and Ashley. Yay!

Warm Chèvre Salad with Grapes, Heirloom Apples, and Walnuts

serves 2

4 handfuls of mixed green salads (I used bloody dock & arugula), washed & dried
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
2 handfuls of walnuts
2 handfuls of red grapes (preferably seedless), halved
2 small apples, thinly sliced and seeds removed (I usually don't core small heirloom apples)
5 cm / 2" log of goat cheese, cut into two disks
olive oil, for frying

for the vinaigrette
3 tbsp walnut oil
1 tbsp dark balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
a drizzle of agave nectar or honey
fine sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

optional: bread, to serve

Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat stirring regularly until the nuts start to get fragrant. Be careful not to burn them as this can happen quite quickly. Set aside.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and agave nectar. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a non-stick frying pan, fry the goat cheese disks for about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown in color. While the cheese is frying, assemble the salad on plates and drizzle with some vinaigrette. Top with the warm goat cheese and serve immediately.

Warm Chèvre Salad with Grapes, Heirloom Apples, & Walnuts | My Blue&White Kitchen

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A New Summer Favorite – Grilled Watermelon Salad

Grilled Watermelon Salad | my blue&white kitchen

I love borders. August is the border between summer and autumn; it is the most beautiful month I know.

Twilight is the border between day and night, and the shore is the border between sea and land.
The border is longing: when both have fallen in love but still haven't said anything.
The border is to be on the way. It is the way that is the most important thing.

– Tove Jansson

Grilled Watermelon Salad | my blue&white kitchen

I can feel it; I can see it with my own eyes. The days are getting shorter and the nights cover the sky with a dark cloak. Only the moon and bright stars shed some light on the serene midnight lake scenery. But as much as I love the Nordic summers and the nightless nights, this shift of seasons feels good. It feels right and I welcome it with open arms. To be honest with you, it would be very hard for me to live in a place without four distinct seasons. I think I would get bored. And as much as I hate to admit it, I think I would miss the snow and darkness as well.

There's certainly something utterly comforting in these dark, warm summer nights. They invite you to light a candle and read a good book. They make a tremendous backdrop for a crayfish party. They call you into the kitchen to bake a loaf of bread or even a cake.

Grilled Watermelon Salad | my blue&white kitchen

Although kids are returning to school after their 10-week-long summer vacation and life is slowly shifting from simple, slow-paced summer cottage life to the usual urban routines, summer isn't over yet. We've had a very unusually long and warm weather during the last couple of weeks with temperatures around 30°C (85°F). It's not quite the weather I fancy to spend much time in the kitchen, so I've been grilling a lot. Grilled vegetables are a staple, and I've particularly fallen in love with the taste of grilled fennel (Haven't tried it? You must!). I often add grilled vegetables to my salads. The smoky flavor is very welcome and I like to combine different flavors and textures to make my salads more interesting and complete. 

This grilled watermelon salad is a new summer favorite. I got a few skeptical looks when I told what I was planning to make for dinner. "You're going to grill that watermelon? How? Are you sure? Is this your own idea?"  I replied that no, this wasn't my idea, and that I had come across it every now and then but had never got the chance to try it myself, and that I was quite sure that I had something absolutely delicious in the making. "Trust me", I said. The first bite convinced even the most skeptical ones. The whole table came to the conclusion that this salad was a winner; the peppery arugula, the saltiness of feta cheese, the crunchy pumpkin seeds, the protein rich beluga lentils, and the juicy, sweet watermelon pieces with a wonderful smokiness. Furthermore, it looks gorgeous and is quick and easy to make. The prefect summer salad, so to speak.

Grilled Watermelon Salad | my blue&white kitchen

Grilled Watermelon Salad

serves 4

This salad can easily be prepared in advance and assembled just before serving. If you want to serve the watermelon so that it's still hot, grill it just before ready to serve.

130 g (1 heaping dl; ½ cup) beluga lentils, rinsed & picked over
90 g (1 heaping dl; ½ cup) pumpkin seeds
200 g (7 oz) feta cheese, drained & broken into chunks
2 red scallions, sliced
2 large bunches of arugula, washed & dried
half a small watermelon (mine was about 1300 g / 3 lb), cut into 2,5cm (1") thick slices
olive oil

For the vinaigrette
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
a drizzle of honey or agave nectar
fine sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook the beluga lentils al dente according to packet instructions. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat stirring regularly until they start to brown slightly, pop open, and are fragrant. Be careful not to burn them as this happens rather quickly. Add a pinch of salt and set aside.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to assemble.

To grill the watermelon, heat your grill on medium-high heat. Lightly brush the watermelon slices with olive oil. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until charred. Remove from heat and dice. Set aside.

To assemble, put the lentils, about two-thirds of the pumpkin seeds, feta, scallions, arugula, and dressing into a large bowl. Toss to combine. Assemble the watermelon cubes on top of the salad and sprinkle the remaining pumpkin seeds on top. Serve and receive rave reviews.

Grilled Watermelon Salad | my blue&white kitchen

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Farmers' Market Glory – Summer Potato Salad

Summer Potato Salad | my blue&white kitchen

How can one not be inspired by summer’s bounty? I’m like a kid in a candy shop whenever I visit a farmers’ market these days as I easily get overwhelmed by all the fresh produce: berries, fruit, vegetables, herbs... So much goodness! I’m lucky to live within a short walking distance of not only one but two farmers’ markets, so I try to find my way to them several times a week. You almost never see me leaving without a bagful of green peas (I eat them raw – one of the best things I know), some local strawberries while still in season (they're amazing at the moment), and new potatoes (cause I just can't get enough of their lovely, delicate flavor). Also, I’m addicted to the sweet-like-candy cherry tomatoes that an old lady sells at her stall every summer. They are the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted, and I never miss the chance to tell her that.

I buy what looks fresh and vibrant, what inspires me the most. When you have great produce at hand, you don’t need to do much to them anymore. Rather, let the textures, flavors, and colors speak their own language. That's my summer cooking philosophy.

Potato salad has always been a summer staple out our home. It's the perfect side dish to accompany grilled meat or fish without having to spend too much time in the kitchen. To be honest, I often make salads on the porch. That way I don't have the feeling I'm trapped inside missing all the fun. Potato salad is also what I most often get asked to bring with me to a summer potluck with friends or family. It's a crowd-pleaser and we rarely end up having leftovers. You would never see mayonnaise in my potato salads as I like to prepare them the way it's done back home in southern Germany with a simple vinaigrette. In this recipe, I added some dijon mustard to the vinaigrette as well as honey which may not be traditional but definitely delicious. Feel free to play around with different vegetables and herbs; use what's in season, what inspires you, or what simply make your mouth water.

Summer Potato Salad | my blue&white kitchen

I’m keeping it short today as the sun is shining so brightly outside and it would be a waste to spend more time sitting here in front of the laptop telling you how wonderful summer evenings are. Go outside, soak up the sun while it's still shining so gleefully! That's exactly what I'm going to do right now.

Summer Potato Salad | my blue&white kitchen

Summer Potato Salad

serves 6 as a side

This salad can be prepared in advance. If doing so, add the radishes, peas, and herbs just before serving or they'll lose their color and/or wilt. You may also need to add some more vinaigrette before serving as the potatoes will probably soak up most of it. Furthermore, if you decide to make the salad in advance, I would let the potatoes cool completely before adding the other vegetables and herbs; you can, however, add the vinaigrette while the potatoes are still warm.

1 kg (2 lb) new potatoes (preferably small ones), scrubbed
2 small cucumbers (I love to use Kirby cucumbers), sliced
1 red scallion, sliced
1 small bunch of pink radishes, cut into sticks
a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes, preferably in several colors, cut into wedges
2 ½ dl (1 cup) shelled green peas
a bunch of fresh herbs, such as dill, chive, or parsley, roughly chopped

For the vinaigrette
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
a drizzle of honey or agave nectar
fine sea salt & freshly ground black pepper


Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. Put the pot back to the stove top and let sit for a while to absorb any water that may still cling to the potatoes and potentially make them soggy. Let the potatoes cool a bit. Halve or slice the potatoes, depending on their size. [note: New potatoes usually have only a very thin skin. Therefore, I prefer them unpeeled.] Add to a big bowl.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Add to the still warm potatoes and mix to combine.

Boil the green peas in salted water for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under ice cold water to stop them from cooking further as well as to help them keep their bright color.

Add everything to the dressed potatoes and toss gently. Serve with grilled fish or meat.

Summer Potato Salad | my blue&white kitchen