Batter Licker

August 4, 2011

tomato, summer squash and quinoa party

In the wake of last night’s employee fiesta and on the eve of the BlogHer ’11 Conference in San Diego, I thought it only appropriate to commemorate my first annual conference with another, seasonal kind of party: a tomato party.

Tomatoes are perhaps the single piece of produce whose season I most look forward to. So when I came across Yottam Ottolenghi’s tomato party recipe in Plenty, I felt inspired.

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This dish highlights tomatoes in all their glory, from the gorgeous variety of bright red, yellow and green colors to the wide range of raw, slow-roasted, and partially-roasted flavors. It truly is a tomato celebration.

But for me, a cheese-less tomato gathering is akin to a cocktail-less dinner party. Something had to be done to liven the mood. So I added feta.

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Summer squash was just a kicker, added because I was roasting tomatoes anyway, had half an empty roasting pan that clearly needed some company, and ultimately I couldn’t deny that buttery post-oven summer squash just made the salad that much more fun … like me after a margarita at a conference full of my personal blogger celebrities. Wish I had imbibed one before drooling all over Ree Drummond and forgetting my name when I ran into her outside the elevators on my very same floor at the San Diego Marriott Marquis last night. Sorry Ree. I swear I’m much more composed and confident as BlogHer’s corporate attorney – and in real life, generally – but thanks for being so gracious!

Tomato, Summer Squash and Quinoa Party (adapted from Ottolenghi’s “Tomato Party” recipe in Plenty)

The wonderful thing about Ottolenghi’s book is how each recipe inspires me and yet can easily act as a jumping off point. Here, I did just that, following his advice to feature a variety of tomatoes in forms ranging from raw to fully roasted. I love having both fresh and truly concentrated tomato flavors in this, and enjoyed my serendipitous addition of buttery roasted summer squash. I also opted for quinoa instead of Israeli couscous because, well, I’m obsessed with quinoa and other “ancient grains” at the moment. Finally, I love how well tomatoes pair with cheese, and couldn’t help but add some crumbled feta to the mix. When I was running low on the salad for lunch the next day, I added some black beans to help it go a bit further, and as with cotija cheese, the feta paired wonderfully with the beans as well.

2/3 c. quinoa
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 lb. assorted summer squash (patty pan, zucchini, etc.), sliced 1-inch thick
5 on-the-vine campari or similar 2-inch diameter tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 c. grape tomatoes (green ones are delicious!), halved
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large heirloom tomato, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground chili powder
salt and pepper
1/4 to 1/2 c. cotija or feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
2 c. cooked black beans (optional)

In a fine mesh sieve, thoroughly rinse quinoa (otherwise it will taste bitter). In a medium pot, bring rinsed quinoa and 1 1/3 c. water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove pot from heat, stir quinoa, re-cover, and let steam for 10 minutes. Remove cover, and bring to room temperature. Do ahead: quinoa may be prepared up to 3 days in advanced, and stored in an airtight, refrigerated container.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400F. On a foil-lined pan, arrange squash slices, halved campari tomatoes, and 3/4 c. halved grape tomatoes (cut side down) in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, cumin, and chili powder. Roast until squash is cooked through and tomatoes are a bit wrinkled, about 30 minutes (but check periodically if your grape tomatoes are really small; you can remove them early). Dice roasted squash, and halve campari tomatoes yet again so they’re bite sized. Do ahead: squash and tomatoes can be roasted up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight, refrigerated container separate from the quinoa.

In a large bowl, toss quinoa with green onions, cilantro, squash, all tomatoes, lime juice, and (if using) crumbled cotija/feta cheese and black beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chilled or room temperature. Do ahead: entire salad may be prepared up to a day in advance and stored in an airtight, refrigerated container.

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