Quinoa and Roasted Cherry Tomato Salad | With Lemon Vinaigrette and Toasted Sunflower Seeds

For those of you who participated in Virtual Vegan Potluck this past Saturday, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. The scope of recipes that was brought to the table was remarkable, as was the care and expertise with which each dish was presented. I was really inspired by how creative – and in many cases, outright gourmet – the dishes were, flying in the face of any negative stereotype of ‘vegan potluck food’ one might hold. Vegan bloggers are clearly a talented lot! If you’re interested in checking out the potluck from the beginning, you can do so here.

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I also was super impressed by how smoothly the potlcuk came together – although I’m sure Annie at An Unrefined Vegan and Somer at Vedged Out, who coordinate the event, would disagree; just a guess, but rounding up 160+ bloggers from around the world and figuring out the logistics of getting them to post in unison must be a bit of migraine headache. I admire her dedication to making the whole thing happen!

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My sweet tooth was given full expression with the Salted Triple Chocolate Brownies I made for the potluck. Maybe the best thing about vegan baking is that you can sneak spoonfuls of the batter without risking salmonella poisoning, something I fully took advantage of while I was making my brownies. By the time I’d finished photographing and then sampling the final product, I felt like I’d definitely reached my sugar quota for the week, maybe even the month! Whenever that happens – and it certainly wasn’t the first time – I feel the need to ‘undo the damage’ wrought by the demonic baked good in question via a super healthy concoction of some sort.

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… Which is where this salad comes into the picture. Being a quinoa salad, it’s inherently nutritious – but with the bold flavours of marinated artichoke hearts, sweet balsamic-roasted cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, lemon zest and crunchy radishes and toasted sunflower seeds, it’s anything but rabbit food! It makes a satisfying lunch on its own, and is also great as a side dish – but maybe the best way to enjoy this salad – and I only discovered this with the leftovers – is to bundle it up in a wrap and eat it that way. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – bread of any description always takes things to the next level!

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Recipe: Quinoa and Roasted Cherry Tomato Salad | With Lemon Vinaigrette and Toasted Sunflower Seeds

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

For the dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 medium lemon (zest your lemon first and set the zest aside; you’ll need it for the salad)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the salad

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 25 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 6 medium basil leaves, chiffonaded
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts
  • 4 radishes, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup plain sunflower seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Roast cherry Tomatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  3. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Place in oven for 20 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and collapsed (tomatoes will leak a lot of juice while roasting – it’s OK)
  5. Rem0ve from oven and set aside to cool.

Cook quinoa

  1. While tomatoes are roasting, combine rinsed quinoa and 1 1/2 cups of water in a medium saucepan.
  2. Cover and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and let quinoa cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

Prepare Lemon Vinaigrette

  1. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, coriander and salt in a small bowl and whisk everything until thoroughly combined. 
  2. Set aside until needed.

Toast Sunflower Seeds

  1. Place sunflower seeds in a small skillet over medium heat.
  2. Tossing continuously, toast seeds until just golden brown (this will only take a couple minutes – be careful, they burn easily!).
  3. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Assemble Salad

  1. Place cooled quinoa, shallots, artichokes, radishes, basil, lemon zest and toasted sunflower seeds in a large salad bowl and toss to combine.
  2. Gently fold in roasted tomatoes and juices from roasting pan.
  3. Drizzle lemon vinaigrette into bowl toss until everything is combined.
  4. Serve, topping each portion with freshly ground black pepper. Eat!

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Red Quinoa, Roasted Beet and Pink Grapefruit Salad | With Hazelnuts and Balsamic Reduction

The Okanagan has been hit with numerous dumps of snow already this Winter – many more than the norm, or so I’ve been told. Over night at least 6 inches of the stuff came down – probably the most we’ve seen fall in one go – and I spent an hour this morning shovelling the RV pad like a champ – huffing and puffing onerously the whole time as I haven’t done any physical activity in months (apart from opening and closing the fridge door). Fortunately the snow was light and fluffy – not the cardiac arrest-inducing, wet and heavy kind – otherwise I’m sure I would have thrown in the towel (shovel?) half way through.

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There is only one Bobcat on site at the trailer part to keep the roads clear when it snows, and the last few weeks it’s been hard pressed to keep up with the demand. I witnessed a dramatic scene this morning as I sat gazing out the window while I drank my morning coffee – one brave sole had endeavoured forth in his golf cart before the roads had been cleared and found himself spinning his tires right in front of our RV. I froze for a moment, wondering if I should ask him if he needed a push, but moments later he managed to back up a few feet and accelerate forward with renewed vigour and was on his way once more.

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After being worked over by the snow shovel this morning I wish I’d kept some of this salad in reserve for lunch today – I actually made it over the weekend and it came together so perfectly we were seduced into eating it in one go. My boyfriend the omnivore even loved it, particularly the quinoa and beet components – he’s all into “super foods” now after watching a show on KCTS9 about the benefits of eating a mostly plant-based diet. Of course I’ve been telling him this stuff since we met but he actually believes me now that he’s heard it from a third party on public television 😉

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On top of looking pretty (I still can’t get over how amazing the intense pink of the grapefruit looks alongside the beets and the quinoa), this salad does everything a good salad should: tastes great, keeps you full for hours, and is super healthy to boot. Everyone already nows that quinoa is good for you, and red quinoa is no exception – it offers the same nutritional benefits as the white variety, but has a richer, more nutty flavour. Beets are high in folates and B-complex vitamins, and grapefruit is a great source of fibre, as well as anti-oxidants vitamin-A and vitamin-C. I added a handful of hazelnuts for some extra crunch, and shallots and fresh dill give a bright, fresh flavour to the salad. The syrupy, tart-yet-sweet balsamic reduction – drizzled on top before serving – is delicious, especially in combination with the earthy flavours of the quinoa and beets. This salad a great option if you’re looking to get your eating habits back on track after the holidays (who isn’t) – without feeling like you’re depriving yourself of the good stuff 🙂

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Recipe: Red Quinoa, Roasted Beet and Pink Grapefruit Salad | With Hazelnuts and Balsamic Reduction

Makes 2 meal-size salads

Ingredients:

For salad:

  • 1 small golden beet
  • 1 small red beet
  • 1/2 cup red quinoa
  • 3/4 cup water (to cook quinoa)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts (I kept them whole but you can chop them if that’s your preference)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
  • 1/2 small red grapefruit, cut into 1/2″ sections
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For balsamic reduction:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or your choice of vegan sweetener)

Method:

Prepare roasted beets: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut beets in half and wrap each half in aluminum foil. Place wrapped halves on a baking sheet and transfer to oven. Roast for 30 minutes, or until beets are tender. Remove from oven, carefully open each aluminum package and set aside to cool. While beets are roasting, prepare quinoa.

Prepare quinoa: In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Let cook for 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool.

Prepare balsamic reduction: In a small saucepan, combine balsamic vinegar and honey (or vegan sweetener) and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often, or until liquid forms a syrupy consistency. Remove from heat and set aside.

Finish salad: Once beets are cool enough to handle, peel away skin. Cut beets into 1/2″ cubes and place in a medium salad bowl. Add cooled quinoa, shallots, hazelnuts, grapefruit and dill. Gently toss to combine. Add olive oil to bowl and toss again. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve, topping each portion with a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Eat!