Smoky Quinoa Caprese Salad

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This dish was born of a few snafus. My plan was a tabouli-style quinoa salad, so I started by cooking the quinoa early in the day. But I became engrossed in the article I was writing and forgot about the simmering quinoa, which burned.

See? Even food writers goof up in the kitchen! I spooned the portion of quinoa that was not burned into a bowl and promptly soaked the charred wreckage. The salvaged quinoa had a bit of a smoky flavor, but I figured I could work with that.

I set the quinoa in the fridge to cool and went back to work. Before I knew it, dinner hour approached and it was time to put together the meal. My plan to make a delicious quinoa tabouli was fading fast.

I went to pull a pint of cherry tomatoes out of the fridge — it was half empty and the remaining tomatoes were past their prime. Not totally disastrous, but a little tired. I decided to go with the smoky theme and pan-roast the tomatoes. This gave them an interesting char, which worked.

Then I reached for the parsley which, sadly, was wilted. My basil plant came to the rescue. I went outside and harvested a few leaves to add some fresh herbal flavor and a pop of green to my dish. I added a bit of finely chopped onion, some salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice, and, although it was not my original intent, the outcome was pretty good.

If you are looking for a pareve side, you can serve this as described below. But small cubes of fresh mozzarella cheese would add to the caprese vibe if you want a dairy dish. Or make it a meat dish and optimize the smoky theme with bite-sized pieces of grilled chicken.

Smoky Snafu Quinoa Salad

Serves 2 as main dish or 4 as a side dish

1½ cups cooked quinoa, chilled (I used a blend of red and white, but any variety will do)

½ pint cherry tomatoes

1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons olive oil (to be used separately)

1 tablespoon finely chopped onion

6 basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons

Generous pinch salt

Generous sprinkle freshly ground pepper

Juice of ½ lemon

Optional additions: ⅔ cup fresh mozzarella cheese cut in small cubes or 1 grilled chicken breast cut into small pieces

Cook the quinoa according to the package directions. Set it aside to cool.

In a small skillet, place a teaspoon of olive oil and the cherry tomatoes. Cook on high until the tomatoes char, shaking the pan frequently to ensure even cooking. Pour the tomatoes and pan juices over the quinoa.

Add the onion, basil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and remaining two tablespoons olive oil. Stir, chill and serve.

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