The other day, Alex and I visited our friend’s urban farm on the south side of Indianapolis. It was quite a sight: an oasis of green a midst junkyards and concrete. We snapped up bright yellow and red cherry tomatoes and purple eggplants at the farm stand, and chatted with farmer Amy as she diligently harvested onions.
If you would have told me 10 years ago that I’d be visiting urban farms and buying vegetables and making them into something palatable, I would have said “You’re crazy.” I had little interest in food: my dinners consisted of cereal and hot pockets and microwave dinners. It was a lonely way to eat. I felt isolated. I’d mainly shop at large corporate chain groceries and feel depressed after I left.
Of all the reasons to get into food, what hooked me was the community. At the farmer’s market, I could talk to the actual person who grew the food! It was mind blowing to me (and I kind of thought the farmers were rockstars. Ok, still do :)). I became fascinated by the personal connections, and little by little, started trying to figure out what to do with these vibrant tomatoes and eggplant and cucumbers that were so unlike the limp ones in the supermarket.
That’s a very condensed version of how we got to where we are today, making things with eggplant and tomatoes and quinoa and herbs from our garden. It sounds so hippie vegetarian of us, but really, we never set out to become that. We just fell in love with the people behind the food, and over time fell in love with the food too.
And this meal? We hope you’ll fall in love with it too. It’s fairly easy to prepare, and the smoky taste of the eggplant is a fabulous contrast to the dill and feta in the quinoa. It’s gluten-free, and a great vegetarian dinner option that was as much filling as flavorful (which is sometimes hard to find). Enjoy, and let us know if you try it out!
For some food inspiration, check out your nearest farmers market or farm stand, if you have one! These tomatoes and eggplant were from South Circle Farm. Keep your eyes peeled for a new Healthy + Whole feature on South Circle.
- 1.2 pounds eggplant (1 large or 2 small)
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill (one handful)
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil (one handful)
- 2 tablespoons cilantro (one handful)
- ½ cup feta cheese crumbles
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat a grill to medium-high.
- Make the quinoa, according to the instructions for Perfect Quinoa.
- Cut the eggplant into ¾-inch slices, and generously season them with salt. Place the slices in a colander, overlapping as necessary. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes, then pat dry with paper towel (this step helps to remove bitterness from the eggplant prior to grilling).
- Liberally brush cut sides of eggplant with olive oil. Place on a grill and cook, turning once, until tender, about 4 minutes a side.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Chop 2 tablespoons each of dill, basil, and cilantro. When the quinoa is done, mix it together with the tomatoes, herbs, 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
- To serve, place two to three eggplant slices on a plate and spoon herbed quinoa and tomato mixture on top.