Friday, 31 May 2013

Vegetable Quinoa Salad with Vegan Almond Cheese

Quinoa is a food trend that has been picking up steam for quite some time now. There is reason for this, several actually. Quinoa is a complete protein making it a great choice for vegetarians. It is extremely versatile and quite delicious. It also has plenty of fibre.

With the warmer weather finally making an appearance I tend to gravitate towards cold salads, fresh, raw vegetables, and healthier options. This particular salad is a great option for a light lunch or as a side dish to a nice piece of fish or something yummy from the grill.

This dish would be great if you decided to leave out the vegan "cheese", but I think that if you are feeling adventurous and have a bit of extra time, you should give it a try. The "cheese" is less cheesy tasting then traditional feta, but offers a creamy texture, and zippy, salty tang.

I used red quinoa for this salad because I think it holds up a bit better to being cooked, cooled, and dressed. However, I have used white quinoa many times before for this type of preparation and have been pleased with those results as well, so the choice is yours.

Vegan "Feta"

1/4 cup ground almonds
1 1/2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
2 TBSP Olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves
3/4 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in food processor. Blend for five minutes or so, until very smooth. If you need to add a bit more water to help with the blending, do so sparingly. 

Line a strainer with a couple layers of cheese cloth. Fill with nut mixture, fold overhanging cheesecloth over top of mixture and weigh down with a plate. Make sure you have your strainer in a bowl, preferably one that the strainer does not touch the bottom of, and place in fridge for about twelve hours. 

Once cheese has set in fridge, remove gently from cheesecloth by inverting it onto your hand. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 200 F for about 1 hour. If your cheese looks like it is browning a lot or quickly, lower temp. Bake until firm. Note that it is a softer "cheese" when finished so it will still be delicate. 
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on baking sheet. Once room temp, transfer carefully to a plate and chill for at least six hours. 

Vegetable Quinoa Salad

4 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup raw)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 English cucumber, chopped small
3/4 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 orange or yellow pepper, diced
Small handful each of cilantro, parsley, and chives. 
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste. 
Vegan feta. 

Gently combine all ingredients but cheese in a bowl. Season to your tastes  (keep in mind that once cooled it will be less seasoned tasting) 
Once mixed, very gently fold in crumbled cheese. It will have a similar texture to goats' cheese, so some of it will mix into it but try to maintain some clumps as well. Reserve a bit of the cheese to sprinkle on top. 
You may serve immediately or cover and keep in the fridge for up to two days.  

This salad can easily be modified to fit personal tastes. My husband LOVES cilantro so I put lots in for him. If you don't like something, like tomatoes, leave them out or replace them with something you like better. 
Because my cheese was quite garlicky, I did not add any to the salad. If you choose to forgo the cheese however, I would add a clove of minced garlic into the salad. 

I hope everyone enjoys this easy and unique salad. I look forward to hearing your feedback.

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