This pretty, flavorful, protein packed recipe came to me as I rushed through the produce section of the supermarket. It was one of the first warmish days that the Chicago area had been blessed with in a while, and it was making me crave something spring like.
That’s when I spotted the most beautiful tomatoes. They were huge, ruby-red, and vine ripened. I’m not sure how my brain did it, but a picture of the tomato, transformed into a cup, filled with a salad of some sort, flashed before me.
Remembering that I had purchased a bag of black quinoa from Williams Sonoma, which was begging
to be made into something special, put my imagination into overdrive, and I concocted this springtime salad in front of the organic herb section.
Color, texture, and flavor (obviously) are crucial to a successful dish that will make the people sitting around your table go, mmmmmmm. When I create a new recipe those three things are always at the forefront of my mind.
As I stood in front of my shopping cart I knew that the quinoa would create a light crunch, but I wanted a little more, so I bought some roasted, salted sunflower seeds that were positioned next to the herbs. Sautéed kale would add color, as would avocado and the tomato, sautéed onions would lend something chewy, and everything combined would make for a medley of savory, citrusy deliciousness. Thank goodness it was early in the week so all of my ingredients where available.
A quick dash through the check-out line and I hurried home to start cooking.
First things first, I rinsed the quinoa and cooked it according to the instructions on the package. Then, on to the rest of the filling.
When I cook, I like to get the onion and garlic preparation out-of-the-way first. If I had to chop onions for the entire day, every day, my eyes would never get used to it. I tried wearing ski goggles for a while, but I felt like a weirdo, so I just sucked it up and let the tears flow.
My next step was chopping up the leaves from three kale stalks. I love, love, love cooking with greens. I have never met one I didn’t like, maybe it’s because that’s my favorite color. Makes sense.
Once the onions and kale were sautéing in the pan, I got down to business with the tomatoes. I cut the tops off, then, with a paring knife, I cut three lines length wise, and then three lines width wise, it looked like a tic-tac-toe board. The next step was to carefully cut out the first row of squares. After that I used a spoon to scoop the fruit out of the cup.
I added the tomato that I scooped out of the cups, the sunflower seeds, and the Italian seasoning, salt,and pepper to the onions and kale. My house was smelling pretty darn good at this point. My dogs were starting to come out of their slumber and mosey on in to the kitchen to see if anything had dropped on the floor. Dogs are good that way, they keep the floors clean and clear of food. Although, they make up for it with their muddy paws. Not so good….
Once the filling is done cooking, it’s time for the best part.
In a large bowl combine the quinoa and the onion, kale, and tomato mixture. Spoon it into the tomato cups until full. Then dice up the avocado, mince some fresh basil, and sprinkle the two on top.
How gorgeous is that? Seriously, I should be so impressed with myself for creating such a stunning and edible creation. Sometimes a pat on your own back is well deserved.
This would be a perfect main course for a spring luncheon, or a summer dinner. Pair it with a warm loaf of crusty bread, fruit salad, and a chilled glass of wine. Perfection!
Another great idea is to fill small tomatoes for a healthy, fun appetizer.
Makes 4 servings
1 cup black quinoa (cook according to instructions on the package)
1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion – finely chopped
1 clove garlic – diced
¼ cup dry white wine
3 stalks of kale – cut the leaves off the stem and finely chop
3 tbsp. roasted, salted sunflower seeds
4 large tomatoes
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Minced basil for garnishing. 4 or 5 leaves
Prepare the quinoa
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan on medium high heat. Cook the onions until translucent then add the wine, kale and garlic. Cook for 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, sunflower seeds, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes soften and release their water. Once the wine and tomato juices have mostly evaporated, remove from heat and set aside.
Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Carefully peel the skin off and then dice into small squares.
Finely chop the basil for garnish.
Combine the quinoa and onion, kale, and tomato mixture in a large bowl and then fill the tomato cups.
Sprinkle the avocado and basil on top.