char-grilled vegetable and quinoa salad

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Yesterday morning, Aaron and I woke early to have breakfast with my beautiful mother at Perth City Farm. The day was cool and fresh, slightly overcast; a welcome change from the blistering temperatures of summer.

We chatted and laughed, feasting on free-range eggs, organic sourdough, grilled tomatoes and lemony smashed avocado in the dappled shade. Between sips of coffee, we sampled spinach from the farm’s own garden before discussing family foibles, travel plans and (mostly) the 2014 Western Australian Senate (re)election.

Before leaving the farm, Aaron and my mother perused the Farm’s art exhibition while I chatted to some friendly Armenian growers at the Organic Market. I left with an armload of fresh produce including Armenian cucumbers, fresh zucchini, homegrown kale and tri-colour capsicums from their bio-dynamic garden.

vegetablebox

That afternoon, I snacked on torn bread and babaghanouj (made with their organic aubergines and home-pressed olive oil) whilst making the grilled vegetable salad below. My mother stayed for some quality mother-daughter time; we drank tea, laughed, took photographs and reminisced about old times.

That evening, the sky grew dark and cold. Aaron and I had a picnic in the park with our best friends, sharing stories over paper plates, grilled chicken and homemade empanadas. Whilst chewing a forkful of homegrown zucchini, I felt truly blessed and grateful; for farmers, fresh vegetables, weekends, warm jumpers and quality time with those I love the most.

bowl

Thanks to all who travel through this life with me. In particular, my family, who embrace me despite weaknesses and always love unconditionally.

I’m grateful. I always will be.

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Char-grilled Vegetable and Quinoa Salad

Adapted from this recipe by the Australian Women’s Weekly

Serves 6 as a side dish or 4 as a light meal

  • 190g (1 cup) royal quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3 small capsicums (bell peppers), preferably mixed colours
  • 200g sweet potatoes
  • 1 zucchini, thickly sliced
  • 1/2 Spanish (red onion) sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 cup washed, picked herbs (I used parsley and mint), coarsely chopped
  • 100g goats feta, crumbled
  • finely grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, roasted and crushed
  • olive oil, to cook

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • salt and pepper

Place the rinsed quinoa into a medium pot with 500ml (2 cups) of water. Bring to the boil, then replace the lid and simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is translucent. Place into a large bowl, drizzle over a little olive oil and add in the lemon zest. Mix well, then set aside to cool.

Cut the sweet potatoes into a medium (2x2cm) dice. Steam or boil until just tender. Drizzle with a little olive oil, then set aside.

Preheat a char-grill pan over medium-high heat. Cut the capsicums in half and scoop out the seeds and membranes. Brush the skins with oil, then char-grill them skin side down until the skins blacken and blister. Turn and cook for an extra minute to allow the inside to steam.

cookingcaps

Place into a sealed bag, covered bowl or airtight container and leave at room temperature until cool (the steam will help the skins to loosen, making them easier to peel).

bowlbase

Brush the zucchini and onion with a little olive oil, then add them to the grill pan with the sweet potatoes. Cook until soft and lightly grill-marked. Add the grilled vegetables to the same bowl as the quinoa.

Peel the capsicum halves and slice them into long, thin strips. Add them to the salad bowl with the chopped fresh herbs, walnuts and feta.

capsicumsliced

To make the dressing, place the oil, mustard, sugar, garlic and vinegar into a small bowl. Whisk until well emulsified. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

mustard

To serve, pour over the dressing and mix gently with a spoon or salad tongs. Place onto a platter and garnish with more herbs if desired.

This salad is wonderful as an accompaniment to grilled meats or fish. It’s also a nutritious light meal, embellished with some plump black olives and served with some fresh bread and butter.

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92 responses

    • Thanks Suzanne, we definitely did. I always feel grateful for time with those I love. Life moves by so fast, so it’s nice to slow down and just breathe for a while :) x

    • Haha… I know what you mean. I think I’m still considering salads because the weather is still so darn hot here in Western Australia! I cannot wait for it to cool down… I love winter food! x

    • Sofia, there’s no shame in not cooking with quinoa! It’s still a new(ish) grain and I’m sure that it’s not as common in Spain as it’s become here in Australia (where these ancient grains are currently all the rage!). Defintiely track some down if you can though. It’s delicious stuff! And yay for Maille, I’m a bit in love with it also! xx

  1. “A welcome change from the blistering temperatures of summer”. Yesterday the cold took a break and it crept up to near 50 and last night we went to a neighborhood beer garden and were able to survive outside in their covered, heat lamp filled garden. Today goes back to chilly with more threats of snow. I can’t describe my jealousy of your summer and how I long for warm weather to stick.

    Rant aside, the salad looks delicious and I love that you charred your veggies on a grill pan! Without an outdoor grill, I thought my only option for charring veggies was to turn them directly over my stove burner, something I’m not very comfortable with. Keeping this recipe in my back pocket should Spring ever show its face.

    • That kind of weather is something I’ve never experienced Mel. Yikes. I admit that I’ve possessed rather idealistic images of snow in my head since childhood (that normally rear their heads around Christmas, when I’m eating turkey in 37 degrees C temperatures under a ceiling fan) but I’ve been rather frightened by all of the weather reports coming in from the northern hemisphere over the past month! You guys are definitely resilient. Hope that you do get some reprieve from the cold and snow soon. P.S I char veggies over my gas burner all the time, it works fabulously… well, I haven’t burned down my house yet, anyway!) xx

  2. That sounds like the perfect day, Laura. Thank YOU for allowing us to tag along and enjoy the market and meals with you. Your salad is absolutely stunning!

    • Aw, thank you so much Stacy! You’re gorgeous. It was a fun day, I am always grateful for time with those I love the most! Even better when the food is lovely too xx

    • They were definitely delicious… I hardly had to do anything to them for a wonderful meal! Don’t you love that? I’m going to miss summer’s seasonal fruit and vegetables as we head towards winter. Thanks for taking the time to comment x

  3. Quinoa works so well in salads of this sort, doesn’t it? And it pears so well with grilled or roasted veggies. Nice recipe, lovely pictures. Thanks.

    • It really does John, I’m loving quinoa salads at the moment. The grains just seem to absorb all of the dressing in the most delicious of ways! Thanks for the kind words.

    • Thanks sweetness! I definitely agree… crunch plus colour makes everything better (okay, well maybe not everything, but… well, salads). I appreciate the comment Shanna! x

    • Thank you lovely! I appreciate it. I’m still loving the salad weather we’re having here at the moment… I’ll make the most of it until the colder weather hits! x

    • Thanks so much David, I completely agree – family and ‘family of choice’ is a wonderful way to put it! I’m hanging on to the last remnants of summer in this post… fresh vegetables and sunshine always do wonders for my mood :)

    • Naw, you are too kind Whit. I’d say the opposite… I am always SO impressed with your Indian dishes. Wish we lived close enough to do a cook-up and drink tea! x

    • Not too long now Julie, it’ll be summer in no time! Grills, fresh salads, sunshine and the outdoors… ah. You deserve it after such a blistering cold winter. We’ve just had a cool change today… a tiny spattering of rain and an overcast sky. This might sound strange but I am rather excited to be escaping the hot weather! Have a lovely weekend xx

  4. Everyone seems to be eyeing up your salad whereas I’ve got my beady eyes on that griddle pan you’re using! I’m in collect mode, as in essentials. Makes life so much easier if you have the right stuff to cook with.
    Did you manage to sort out your probs with WP?

    • I love that griddle pan Johnny. It’s Le Chasseur (which I used to think was a cheap rip-off of Le Creuset but now I’m converted) and I use it all the time! Definitely add it to your essentials collection as you head into the warmer months. As for WordPress? Argh. Frustration! I seem to have some bugs in my system at the moment that have caught me by surprise. I do remember your WP ordeal some time back… I guess it’s my turn now!

    • You’re completely right Caeli, I always feel the same about griddle lines :) I’m loving the cooler mornings at the moment… trips to the market, avo on toast, good coffee… bliss! I’m hoping to do the same thing tomorrow. Have a lovely weekend! xx

    • Thanks for the comment lovely. Yes, royal quinoa is slightly larger, nuttier and less bitter than its counterpart, quinoa dulce or just ‘quinoa’ (it’s often just labelled with no other descriptor). Have a read of this post for more information: http://www.alterecofoods.com/blog/royal-quinoa I only buy royal quinoa as it’s more reliable during the cooking process. I do think the nutritional content is similar between both types though! x

    • Aw, you’d be welcome lovely Erin! How about you and Ben hop on a plane right now (if you can tear him away from his law books) and I’ll have dinner ready! Ah, I wish! xx

    • Thanks Sawsan! It goes beautifully with the grilled vegetables, definitely try it if you can get your hands on some quinoa. I’m loving grains in salads at the moment! x

    • Oh, please do Sam! We’d have a grand time! Writing, cooking, laying in the sunshine… I do feel like it’s a travesty for us to live on opposite sides of this great southern land! xx

  5. Lovely post and recipe – you must be totally vitamined-up with all those bright and beautiful vegetables! I imagine you have some freakishly healthy aura glowing all around you right now ;)

    • Trixabelle! Yep, that’s why they call me L… aura (yeah I know, worst joke ever. As in, dad-worthy. I like to use it at Christmas, you know, “Noel, noel…”, that just leaves an “aura”, right?). Thanks for the sweet words! I do need to maintain my veg intake in preparation for the pending cold weather of winter. Two months to go… xxx

      • Oh deary! Nearly winter? And no Christmas mid-way to make it better *sniff* … Do you have some other celebration to keep you going through the cold months? I should start knitting blankets for you and sending warm thoughts your way :)

    • Wow. One KILO! I don’t think I’ve even seen it sold by the kg over here, that’s awesome! Definitely give this recipe a go. It’s a worthy use for some of your quinoa bounty! Hugs xx

  6. Oh woow look at those colors. Such a healthy salad. I just understood how amazing the combination of feta cheese in veggie salad is just recently. Im sure this will be superb!

    • Thank you Sadia! Yes, feta and vegetables is just beautiful. I’m loving goats feta at the moment… it has an extra deliciously tangy edge to it. I appreciate your kind words x

  7. I’m sure the quinoa is wonderful here, Laura, but for me the stars are the roasted vegetables. Love the flavor that roasting brings out in just about any vegetable prepared that way. Add that dressing that you’ve created and that’s one great salad that you’ve prepared. It’s a beautiful dish, too, and I bet your dinner mates all comment about i. I know I would.

    • Yes, I definitely agree John… char-grilling and roasting make vegetables so much more flavourful, I’ve fallen in love with smoky grilled zucchini and peppers at the moment! Thanks for the lovely comment :)

  8. Such a wonderful and healthy dish, dear Laura, like always. I also followed your link to perth city farm – it looks and sound a bit like something similar we have in Berlin called Prinzessinnengärten. I love such projects a lot, bringing farming and gardening into the cities. Thanks a lot for sharing!

    • Oh, I’m glad to know that you have a similar initiative in Berlin! I love Perth City Farm, it’s fast becoming one of my favourite weekend haunts. I am very much looking forward to visiting your city later this year. It’s been on my ‘wish list’ for years. I might try and visit Prinzessinnengärten whilst I’m there! Thanks for the lovely comment Claudia xxx

  9. Laura, you’ve done it again! This salad is my type of meal – super fresh veggies, creamy fetta and a zesty dressing. Big YUM. Those curly Armenian cucumbers are gorgeous! We’re squeezing in as many salads as we can at the moment, before the sun waves goodbye.
    Honestly, I think char-grilled capsicums are one of my most favourite veggie treats. Your chargrill pan looks good – mine has no sides and I’m constantly left with an oily, splattered bench top.
    PS. Nothing better than some quality mother-daughter time.

    • Oh, the Armenian cucumbers were delicious, I’m definitely a convert! Plus, it’s an added bonus when the gentleman who sells them is so lovely. The grill pan is from Le Chasseur, it’s one of my favourite kitchen items. There’s still a bit of oil splatter (I guess it’s unavoidable) but for the most part it keeps the oil in the pan :) Thanks so much for the sweet comment Sas. I definitely agree, mother-daughter time is a treasured part of my life, whatever my age xx

  10. Oh swooon. When I come over (and I intend to, after reading your last gorgeous post), can we make this? This is exactly what I want to eat right now. Why is it that I never seem to come up with these awesome ideas when I actually have produce in my kitchen? I’m jealous of that beautiful box of veggie goodness since my fridge is fairly bare at the moment. This just sounds like a day of eating perfection, from the eggs + sourdough to the babaghanouj to this salad!

    • Yes, I’m holding you to that Erika! Come visit me! I’m sure you’d love it in Australia… so much fresh, organic produce, clean beaches, heaps of vegan options too. I think we like similar things so we’d have a grand time on the foodie tour! Bring Erik, I’m sure he and Aaron would have lots to talk about! xx

  11. That box of vegetables looks like my shopping from the fruit and vegetable markets here! I love the freshness and “green” taste of these cucumbers. We snack on them here as a fruit – something which took me a bit to get used to as only ever preparing cucumbers in salads before. When you visit people’s homes they will always bring a bowl of fruit for people to enjoy and there are always these pale green cucumbers in with the other fruit and they are the first to go! They are the most refreshing snack in the heat of summer when sometimes traditional fruit is too sweet. Beautiful words about your mum and sounds like a perfect Mother daughter day – time together over food that is grown and prepared with love. Does it get any better! :)

    • They are so delicious! This was my first occasion of sampling Armenian cucumbers. They’re so much better than the normal watery ones. I hung out with my mum again this morning… I’m trying to embrace every single occasion as much as possible. I treasure her presence in my life xx

  12. Pingback: Picnics and Caramelised Onion Foccacia « Laura's Mess

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