Roasted cauliflower, eggplant and quinoa salad with smoky almonds

I’m sitting in my armchair, which is slightly sticky from the heat, listening to softly rumbling, stormy thunder in the distance and wondering how we arrived at summer so swiftly.

Tree

A “knitted” tree from our neighbourhood – hasn’t got the “its summer” message yet

The arrival of summer has meant that it is almost a year now since I quit my full-time job. While I haven’t yet discovered the bottom of my navel or the “next big thing”, I do not regret a thing.  Time has just flown by: a blur of family and friends (near and far flung), new arrivals to the family, visitors, camping trips, weddings, overseas jaunts, delicious meals, exploring, consulting (yes, some work), beaches, national parks, long walks, scheming about the future and plenty of fun.  Although I’m still all over the place, it feels a good spot to be in.

Bronte

Bronte beach, spending a bit of time here lately

Before I get sidetracked on the meaning of life, I’m going to get straight on with this salad as I intended this to be a short and sweet post today.  This salad is packed full of flavour, and a complete meal in itself with fresh zesty flavours and crunchy almonds.  It would be great for a weeknight meal, or a side salad at a bbq, picnic or large gathering.

Roasted cauliflower, eggplant and quinoa salad with smoky almonds

Roasted cauliflower, eggplant and quinoa salad with smoky almonds

Its middle eastern flavours are derived from the pomegranate molasses, preserved lemon, tahini, cumin and smoked paprika. The quinoa and butter beans form the base and provide the protein, and are complemented by the deliciously smoky slow-roasted vegetables, fresh, zesty greens and crunchy almonds.  This salad serves 3-4 adults as a main (although you may wish to increase the amount of quinoa or beans in the salad if you have large portion eaters).

salad

Great for a summery BBQ

Ingredients

  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, broken into “florets”
  • 1 medium eggplant (aubergine), diced into 1.5cm cubes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
  • 1 cup of tricolour quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock
  • 400g can of butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 50-60g baby spinach leaves (about 2 handfuls)
  • 25g basil (about 1 handful of picked leaves), finely chopped
  • 25g coriander (about 1 handful of picked leaves), finely chopped
  • 1 quarter preserved lemon, finely chopped
  • 4 radishes, washed and thinly sliced (optional – you don’t really need these, but I have a radish obsession)
  • 1 quantity of lemon tahini dressing (recipe below)
  • 1 quantity of smoky almonds (recipe below)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for cooking
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Lemon tahini dressing

  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (can be substituted with honey if none available)
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 2-3 tablespoons warm water
  • Pepper, to taste

Smoky almonds

  • 1/3 cup of almonds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 140°C.  In a large baking tray, add the cauliflower florets, eggplant cubes, cumin, paprika, chilli flakes, sea salt and a couple of splashes of olive oil.  Mix well with your hands until the cauliflower and eggplant are coated with the oil and spice mix.  Put in oven and bake for 45-50 minutes until the cauliflower and eggplant are soft and golden.
  2. Prepare the almonds by adding them to a small baking tray with the cumin, paprika, sea salt and olive oil.  Toss until the almonds are covered in the oil and spice mix.  Put in oven and bake 20-25 minutes until the almonds are a darker brown and crunchy.  Check regularly to make sure they do not burn (this can happen very quickly – make sure you take them out before the vegetables!).  Set aside and cool for 20-25 minutes.
  3. While the vegetables and almonds are roasting, cook the quinoa following these directions, but substituting vegetable stock for the water.  Set aside to cool.
  4. Prepare the dressing by crushing the garlic with the sea salt (using a pestle, knife or the back of a spoon) until it forms a smooth paste.  Whisk in the olive oil, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, tahini, salt and pepper to form a smooth dressing.  Add two tablespoons of warm water and whisk again – the dressing should be thin but also stick a little to the spoon, and you may need another tablespoon of water if its too gluggy (or add more lemon, salt or pepper, depending on taste).
  5. Once the vegetables are ready, remove from oven and let cool.  Add the quinoa, the butter beans, preserved lemon, half of the dressing and half of the spinach, basil and coriander to a large bowl or platter and mix through.  Then mix in the cauliflower, eggplant and the other half of the spinach.  When ready to serve, sprinkle over the remaining herbs, radish and the smoky almonds and drizzle with the remaining dressing.
Roasted cauliflower, eggplant and quinoa salad with smoky almonds thumbnail image A salad which is a complete meal, perfect for a weeknight dinner, beach picnic or BBQ 30min

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