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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Roasted Spaghetti Squash, Grape Tomatoes and Peaches with Feta and Fresh Basil

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of what I described as “nonsense” in one of my first posts, that being using the oven to prepare a meal when it’s ridiculously hot outside. It started with the roasted acorn squash soup I felt compelled to make a couple weeks ago (shedding a few pounds of water weight in the process), then the idea for the recipe in this post came along, and tonight I was back at it again, sparking up the ol’ pilot light (I’m now an expert at this) in the Gypsy Roller’s miniature oven in preparation for a dish that will appear in a future post. When we arrived in the Okanagan at the end of July I guess I was so stunned by the heat I figured I’d be subsisting solely on cucumber sandwiches, mint juleps and popsicles for the remainder of the summer; at that point acknowledging the existence of the oven, let alone turning it on, did strike me as completely nonsensical. Obviously I didn’t anticipate the awesome bounty that is the Lake Country Famers’ Market and the abundance of vegetables (and fruit) there that lend themselves nicely to a good roasting!

So I’m on an oven-roasting kick. I’m also on a squash kick. My acorn squash soup was a success and piqued my curiousity as to what else I could get up to with members of the Cucurbita (useless word of the day!) family. I kept coming across intriguing recipes on Pinterest (I should just come out and admit that I am obsessed with Pinterest. Over 5,000 pins and counting!) featuring spaghetti squash, so I thought I’d come up with my own treatment of this nifty noodle-y vegetable (ok, it’s technically a fruit, but you know what I mean). Initially I wanted to give it a bit of a Mediterranean spin, combining the spaghetti squash with nice oily ingredients like kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes. But seeing as these ingredients are commonly available in jars year round, I decided to save this idea for Winter and instead take advantage of the local seasonal ingredients and whip up something a little more summery. Perhaps the peaches are an unusual addition to the dish, but I was interested in experimenting with them in a savoury recipe instead of the usual pie or cobbler. Plus they’ll be gone from the markets in a few weeks so I wanted to have a final go with them while I still had the opportunity! I think their texture and tangy sweetness ended up working really nicely with the other ingredients. That’s the nice thing about squash, its versatile enough that it can be combine with just about any flavour to create something tasty. I couldn’t help but use a bit of butter to saute the leeks, and I’m glad I did because it lends the recipe a subtle richness and emphasizes the pasta-like quality of the spaghetti squash. So good!

Recipe: Roasted Spaghetti Squash, Grape Tomatoes and Peaches with Feta and Fresh Basil

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 small leeks, diced (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 18-20 grape tomatoes
  • 3 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 7 leaves of fresh basil, cut into ribbons
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Roast spaghetti squash: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut spaghetti squash in half length wise and scoop out seeds. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each squash half and season with salt and pepper. Place squash cut-side down on a baking sheet and cook for 40 minutes or until flesh is tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Roast tomatoes and peaches: Keeping oven heated to 400F, place tomatoes and peaches in an 8in x 8in casserole dish, toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes and peaches for 30 minutes or until soft and juicy, stirring gently half way through. Remove from oven and set aside.

Prepare leeks: In a large skillet over medium heat, saute leeks in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil, until soft. Using a slotted spoon, remove tomatoes and peaches from casserole dish (discard of the juices) and combine with leeks. Remove skillet from heat.

Once squash has cooled, scrape flesh from rind using a fork and add to skillet. Add crumbled feta and basil, and gently fold ingredients together until combined. Serve and eat!