Yesterday morning I set out on what should have been a lovely sunrise run along the sea wall. The beach was on my left side, the park was on my right, and a few fellow early morning enthusiasts shared the path with me. About 15 minutes in, I was just getting into my meditative running groove when suddenly I noticed something that nearly stopped me in my tracks.
It smelled earthy. It sounded like crunch, crunch, crunch – not a chewing-on-a-carrot crunch, but more of a rustling sort of crunch. And it looked like an explosion of red, orange, yellow and green.
And no, it wasn’t tomatoes. But on a side note, can you imagine that? A random encounter with tomatoes during a casual jaunt along the sea wall? It’d be like “boat, boat, boat, crow, boat, boat, TOMATO! Boat, boat, crow, boat boat…”
Can you tell what kind of week I’m having?
The earthy smell, the crunch, and the red, orange and yellow scene that knocked me out of my blissful state was leaves. Not just a couple of leaves. I’m talking a LOT of leaves, on the ground, crunching under my feet. FAR too many leaves for my liking at this time of year.
I know the calendar says it’s August 24th but I flat-out refuse to believe that there is less than a month of summer left. I haven’t consumed anywhere near my seasonal watermelon quota yet, my cherry pitter has only just been getting warmed up, and after having developed a routine of buying cute little locally-grown baby heirloom tomatoes like these ones, there’s no way that the average grocery store tomato is ever going to be able to compare. Stay away, fall, you’re not welcome here yet.
My response to this impending situation? Loading up on as much of summer’s feast as possible. I’m talking TLC Hoarder’s style. Kidding. Sort of.
The Baby Heirloom Tomato, Cucumber and Quinoa Salad I’ve got for you today is evidence that sometimes the simplest of ingredients can make the most delicious of meals. As a kid I couldn’t stand tomatoes unless they were cooked or in the form of ketchup, and I attribute it to the whole crisp-on-the-outside-but-mushy-on-the-inside texture factor. But sun-ripened ones at this time of year? Pure perfection.
Fresh is certainly best in this case, so if you can get your tomatoes, cucumber and herbs from a local market (or better yet, your own garden), you’re well on your way to making a bowl full of magic. Toss in some quinoa, red onion, avocado and a generous sprinkle of flaky sea salt, then douse the whole thing in a simple balsamic vinaigrette….
With some of the season’s best produce, simple ingredients and a light balsamic vinaigrette are all you need for salad magic. This Baby Heirloom Tomato, Cucumber and Quinoa Salad is a crowd-pleaser, but also works well when made ahead in big batches.
- 1/3 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 1/2 cups mixed heirloom or baby tomatoes
- 1 medium English cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1 packed tbsp each shredded fresh basil, parsley and mint
- 1 cup loosely packed sunflower sprouts or pea shoots
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
- flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 tbsp hemp seeds
- 1/2 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
- 2 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and halved
Balsamic vinaigrette (you will have lots leftover):
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs (such as parsley, basil and oregano)
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 clove finely minced or pressed garlic
- sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- Boil the quinoa in 1 1/3 cups of water on the stove for 12-14 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed and the grains are puffy. Drain any excess water, then transfer it to a bowl and let it chill in the fridge.
- Meanwhile, shake up all the ingredients for the dressing in a jar or bottle, or if you prefer, blend them all together in your blender.
- Prepare all of the vegetables as indicated above. In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes, cucumber, fresh herbs and sunflower sprouts with the chilled quinoa and a few tablespoons of dressing. Season to taste with flaked sea salt and pepper, then let it sit for a few minutes to let the flavours develop.
- Divide the salad between two bowls, topping with sliced avocado, a sprinkle of hemp seeds and the boiled eggs. Serve with extra dressing on the side if desired.
So tell me…
- What seasonal fruit or vegetable do you miss most when summer ends?