With each passing week, I get a little bit more anxious about the end of summer. You see, I’m not ready to say goodbye to delicious BBQ or no-cook desserts or gorgeous simple salads. I don’t want to stop partying in Detroit or Maryland or Connecticut. Nor do I want to start pulling out sweaters or scarves or closed-toed shoes or *shudder* pants. (Making this summer withdrawal worse? The weird fall-like weather we’ve had this week. Not ready for 50-degree morning runs yet!)
So to compensate, I’ve decided to go HAM on summer produce. I’m eating blueberries by the pint and peaches by the pound. I’m up to my ears in corn (HA.), eat cucumbers twice a day and have an armful of zucchini in the fridge. I’ve even embraced both tomatoes and eggplants, so you know things are gettin’ weird.
Overwhelmed by Fresh Direct’s “Great Right Now” section (and possibly still feeling the after effects of the Lil Wayne concert … ) I got a little crazy while ordering my groceries in Detroit. So, to use up my piles of produce, I roasted everything — meaning 3 pounds of produce — in multiple batches and then did the only thing I could think to do: I tossed the ginormous pile of vegetables with quinoa.
The end result is a roasted summer vegetable quinoa that is extremely versatile. You can make a vegan version by omitting the cheese, as I did (totally on purpose … ) in these pictures. Thankfully I remembered to add some ricotta salata* before actually eating the quinoa, and the cheese adds a tangy saltiness that contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the roasted vegetables.
You could also use the quinoa as a stuffing for zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers or even small eggplants. Use mozzarella cheese instead of ricotta salata (mozz melts better) and perhaps some breadcrumbs. If you cut your vegetables smaller and add breadcrumbs and eggs, you could even form quinoa patties out of this recipe, though if you do, you have to send me some.
But even in its simplest form, it’s a delicious side for grilled chicken, steak or fish. Or you could be totally lazy and eat it on its own, possibly straight out of the tupperware you packed it in with a spoon. I’ll let you guess which route I went …
*Ricotta salata is regular ricotta that has been dried, salted (salata means “salted” in Italian) and aged, and is a firm cheese that can be crumbled, grated, shaved or sliced. It’s a bit milder than feta but can be used in much the same way, aka on everything: as a topping on grain or vegetable salads, folded into scrambles or frittatas, tossed with vegetable sautees, sliced with heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs for a different take on caprese, etc. etc. Here are additional ideas for using it (though I disagree with that article’s premise that ricotta salata isn’t good on its own — I love it!)
Roasted Summer Vegetable Quinoa
Serves 8 as a side
– 1 pound eggplant, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
– 3 ears corn, kernels cut off cob
– 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
– 1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
– 1/4 cup + 1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano, divided
– 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
– salt and pepper, to taste
– 1 cup dried quinoa, cooked according to package instructions and cooled
– 1/2 cup pitted olives
– juice of 1 lemon
– 4 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled (or you could use feta) — optional
– 1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano
– 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1) Roast the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 425F. In a large bowl (or two), combine the eggplant, corn, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, onion, oregano, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread out on lined baking sheets, making sure that the vegetables do not overlap, then bake for 25-30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned. Cool completely.
2) Toss the cooled vegetables with the quinoa and olives. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, as well as the lemon juice, and stir until coated thoroughly. Add the crumbled cheese, oregano and parsley, and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.