Monday, July 23, 2012

Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa with Orange Basil Vinaigrette and Pepitas


With only pennies remaining in our savings account, I decided to revisit The Veganomics Project, a venture I began while living in Europe to save money on groceries by eating a plant-based diet. The exchange rate crippled my plan, which made its chief ambition to spend only $50 a week to feed our family of four. But as we're back in the United States, I'm back in business.

This week, I'm trying all new recipes. It makes cooking and eating vegan so much more fun. Last night we kicked off the week with a recipe borrowed--and modified beyond recognition--from one of my favorite local restaurants, Windsor. Its Mixed Grain Salad combines black quinoa, kamut, and pearled barley with roasted vegetables, baby beets, currants, and fresh salad greens all tossed in an orange basil vinaigrette, topped with goat cheese and served with warm pita bread. It's a masterpiece.

My adaptation is gluten-free, vegan, and produces one sink-full fewer dishes than the original. But, it's still a masterpiece. Savory roasted vegetables sit atop a bed of greens and pillowy quinoa, perfectly offset by the delicate crunch of pepitas and sweet currants. It's a perfect summer dish because you can prepare many of the ingredients ahead of time and enjoy the dish cold or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Serves four 

Roasted Vegetables
2 zucchini, julienned
2 carrots, shredded
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup currants (raisins are acceptable)
¼ cup fresh basil chiffonade

Orange Basil Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Zest and juice of one orange
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 Serrano pepper, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 head red lettuce, rinsed, dried and roughly chopped   
¼ cup pepitas 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the roasted vegetables, toss the zucchini, carrots, and grape tomatoes with olive oil in a 9x13 glass pan. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with the currants and fresh basil. Set aside.


While the vegetables are cooking, cook the quinoa in a 1 1/2 cups salted water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients, using as much or as little Serrano pepper as you desire. About 1/4 of the pepper will produce a very mild and agreeable heat. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

To serve, toss the quinoa with half of the orange vinaigrette. Toss the lettuce with the remaining dressing. Plate the lettuce first. Top with quinoa and roasted vegetables. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of pepitas.

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