If you’ve been put off by bland tasting quinoa salads (as I have), this recipe for roasted vegetable and quinoa salad may just change your mind. For the longest time, I put the blame on quinoa itself. Despite that fact that quinoa is a complete protein high in fibre, iron and magnesium—an all-round superfood—I’d avoided it like the plague for many years because the first time I’d eaten quinoa, I felt like I was being punished. It tasted like damp cardboard someone had forgotten to season. Then my pre-natal personal trainer, C insisted that I try making my own quinoa salad based on her instructions. She said it would be keep me from getting hungry too quickly (the benefits of a low GI diet) and give me all the nutrients much needed for baby building, too. Thanks to C, I’ve come to realize that a highly nutritional dish doesn’t have to be low on flavour. I ate this roasted vegetable and quinoa salad regularly when I was expecting T. It’s so easy to prepare and keeps well. In fact, it’s an ideal lunch to take to the office. I quite like eating it cold. I even took it on board the plane with me when I was pregnant and slightly obsessive about the nutritional content of the food I was eating!
Naturally, I was thrilled to discover that my son T enjoys this quinoa salad, too. I must admit that the version pictured here is a little gloopier (and somewhat less appetizing in the looks department) than I would have liked because T likes his quinoa on the moist side. But this texture also makes it easier for him to spoon it into his mouth. The great thing is that this recipe is highly adaptable. I sometimes toss in flecked, grilled fish or diced chicken into it for T. For the rest of the family, this roasted vegetable and quinoa salad is also a great side dish. When I’m not planning on serving it to T, I often toss leftovers and roasted nuts into it, and add a dash or four of Maggie seasoning to it to up its umami factor.
Easy Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Salad
Serves 3 adults plus 1 toddler (or 2 adults and 1 toddler, leaving an extra portion for momma’s lunch the day after)
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
roasted vegetables (Use Dawn’s recipe here. Take her advice and feel free to adapt the vegetable selection. For T and CH, I’d use small sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots and capsicums.)
4 tbsp cream cheese
2 tbsp minced spinach (optional)
freshly grated parmesan, salt and pepper to taste
3 hardboiled eggs, shelled and coarsely chopped
Caramelised onion (this can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. I often make a larger quantity and use it in sandwiches as well.)
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced into rings (use a mandoline if you have one)
1 tsp olive oil
Prepare the caramelised onion. Fry the sliced onion in the olive oil on medium high heat until it starts to colour. Reduce heat to low or medium low and continue to gently fry until golden. Add just enough water to barely cover the sliced onion and continue to cook on low or medium until the water has evaporated, and the onion is soft and caramelised. Set aside or refrigerate until needed.
Cook quinoa in the rice cooker in the same way you would rice. Use 2 cups of water to 1 cup of quinoa. Quinoa can be cooked and refrigerated if necessary.
As the quinoa cooks, roast your vegetables using Dawn’s easy roasted vegetable tray bake recipe. You might want to cut the vegetables into slightly smaller, approximately 1.5cm, cubes and roast them for a shorter time. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a little. If necessary, cut some of the vegetables into smaller pieces for your toddler.
To serve, gently heat the caramelised onion in a small saucepan. Add the cream cheese and minced spinach (if using). Mix just until the ingredients are evenly distributed and the cream cheese has softened. Remove from the heat and toss into the cooked quinoa. Stir in the roasted vegetables. Season to taste with grated parmesan, salt and pepper. If it’s a little dry, drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil. Finally, stir in the hardboiled eggs.