Thursday, May 14, 2015

Heirloom Carrot Salad with Spinach-Almond Couscous Gluten-Free Vegan Recipe

This is a quick and easy recipe, and while it has a few "fancy" ingredients, you can easily substitute more common ones for a sure-to-please lunch or dinner option! I included some "Kid-Friendly Tips" for ways to accommodate different tastes using these same ingredients without having to make multiple different meals if you have picky eaters or kids who prefer their ingredients served separately, like mine do.

Heirloom Carrot Salad with Spinach-Almond Couscous
Cooking time 15-25 minutes. Serves 2-3 

1 cup gluten-free couscous (can use quinoa or rice instead.)
2 cups spinach
2 Tbsp sliced almonds
1 bunch heirloom carrots
2 tsp olive oil
1 red onion
1/4 c dried currants (or chopped raisins)
2 Tbsp date molasses (honey or agave would work instead)
2-3 Tbsp unsweetened non-dairy milk or 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp Harissa paste (optional)
10-15 mint leaves (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and dry the fresh produce.

For the Spinach-Almond Couscous:
Roughly chop the spinach. Set aside.
In a medium pot, heat 1 cup of water and a large pinch of salt until boiling. Add the couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed. (If using rice or quinoa instead, follow package directions for 1/2 cup uncooked rice/quinoa.) (If you're lazy or in a hurry, you can boil water in the microwave instead, then add 1 cup boiling water to 1 cup couscous in a medium bowl, then cover and let sit 5 minutes.)
Fluff with a fork and add the spinach and almonds. [Kid-Friendly Tip: set aside some plain couscous before adding the spinach for your less-adventurous eaters. You can also set aside some plain spinach and add a little of their favorite dressing for a mini salad.] Stir until spinach is slightly wilted.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside in a warm place.

For the Heirloom Carrot Salad:
Peel the carrots, then trim and discard the ends. Quarter the carrots lengthwise (if your carrots are very long, cut in half widthwise first.)
Peel the onion and cut lengthwise into 3/4-inch wide wedges. Separate the layers.

While the couscous cooks, in a large pan, heat 2 tsp of olive oil on medium-high heat until hot.
Add the carrots, and season with salt and pepper. Cook 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until lightly browned and lightly softened. [Kid-Friendly Tip - you can pull out some of the cooked carrots for your kids at this point.]

Add the onion. Cook 2-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.

Add the currants, date molasses, 1/2 cup water, and 2 Tbsp non-dairy milk (if using Greek yogurt instead of non-dairy milk, don't add it yet!) Cook 2-4 minutes, stirring and scraping the pan frequently, or until the liquid is slightly reduced into a sauce. Remove from heat.

Optional: If you like heat, add the Harissa paste (and Greek yogurt, if using dairy) to the pan of cooked veggies and sauce, and stir until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the Spinach-Almond Couscous between 2-3 dishes and top each with some of the carrot mixture. Garnish with mint leaves.

Tastes great warm, but leftovers taste nice served chilled as well. Enjoy!

Hubby and I enjoyed the salad as intended, using gluten-free corn-based couscous and dairy-free milk in the sauce. I skipped the heat in mine, since I'm very sensitive to it, but I added a smaller amount to Hubby's serving of carrots before serving it over his couscous.

For the girls, I served them couscous with salt and a little (non-dairy) butter (since it was corn-based, I would have added a little sugar to make it taste more like cornbread, if needed. But they gobbled it down without any added sugar.) Their carrots were pulled out before I added the onions and such, and only had salt and "butter" (the olive oil they were cooked in. Shhhh!) Z chose to eat her spinach plain in big leaves "rabbit-style," and E opted for a little of her favorite vinaigrette and some sliced almonds on top of her chopped spinach salad.
While they might have eaten the couscous mixed with spinach, there would have been a lot of grousing, and they probably would have eaten around the spinach instead of gobbling it down when served separately. There is no way either of them would have touched the carrot salad though. They are both highly averse to sauces ON their foods, and foods mixed together, in general. They're becoming more adventurous, and I can get them to eat some things mixed together, sometimes. But this dish was easy enough to serve separately, without having to go to a lot of effort. It was worth the extra steps of getting out the dressing and butter in exchange for not having to listen to barf noises while I enjoyed my meal!

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