Tag Archives: bocconcini

Weekday Quinoa Salad with Bocconcini and Late Summer Vegetables

30 Aug

Back-to-school time is here.  My days of school are finally over but like the hordes of students anxiously awaiting next Tuesday, I’m embarking on my own new beginning… a real job!

During the week, salads are my preferred lunch because they’re an easy way to eat several servings of vegetables in one go.  Traditional leafy greens with chopped vegetables, a protein source (beans, lentils, tuna, egg), a grain (rice, quinoa) and dressing used to be my staple.  Over the years, the prep became tedious and salads were slowly being replaced with less desirable lunches.

Wanting to reconnect with my salad habit of days past, I’ve recently taken a new approach.  On Sunday, a week’s worth of salad ingredients and dressing are combined in bulk and each morning I top a bed of spinach with a hearty scoop of dressed salad ingredients.  Voila!  Lunch for the day in under a minute.

A lunch of quinoa salad on a bed of spinach… ready to go!

With cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and bell peppers, this bocconcini and oregano quinoa salad is the perfect weekday lunch to take advantage of the season’s local produce.  Plus, it’s easy to prepare, nutritious, and delicious!  Feel free to toss in a can of chickpeas for added protein and fibre.  Fresh oregano will almost certainly yield best results but I used dried and the salad was still delicious.  Bon appetite!

Late Summer Vegetable, Bocconcini, and Quinoa Salad


Bocconcini and Oregano Salad
(from Quinoa 365)

3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup halved or quartered cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup diced red onion (the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup frozen baby green peas, thawed
1 cup diced red bell pepper (about 1 pepper)
1/2 cup diced yellow bell pepper
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
Pinch of salt and ground black pepper
1 cup halved mini bocconcini cheese pieces

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the quinoa and water to a boil.  Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn the heat off and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for another 4 minutes.  Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork.  Set aside to completely cool.
  2. Combine the zucchini, tomatoes, onion, peas, red and yellow peppers in a large bowl.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, mustard, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Pour the dressing over the vegetables and thoroughly mix all the ingredients.
  4. Add the quinoa and bocconcini and mix until evenly combined.  Serve immediately or refrigerate before serving.

Makes 4 servings.  Per serving:  308 kcal, 34 g carbohydrate, 5 g fibre, 14 g fat (3.8 g saturated), 14 g protein, 122 mg sodium


Tis the Season… for Tomatoes!

9 Sep

If you’re a tomato-eater, you can appreciate the difference between in-season tomatoes (plump, juicy, and sweet) and middle-of-winter tomatoes (mealy, watery, and flavourless).  We’re in the middle of tomato season in Ontario– a reality that officially registered with me this past weekend.  I was at a rest stop in upstate New York, en route to Connecticut for a weekend visit with my parents.  The food options were limited: Tim Hortons (we were still fairly close to the Canadian border at this point) or a burger-and-fries joint known as Checkers.  I grabbed an uninspired salad from the latter– iceberg lettuce, a slice or two of cucumber, and a dash of grated cheese with a microwaved chicken breast on top.  Yum.  But hiding beneath the chicken were two bright red tomato wedges.  Not the greenish-orangey tomatoes that I’ve come to expect from fast food joints.  They were juicy and ruby red throughout… and they actually tasted like tomato!

Wanting to take advantage of the abundance (and affordability!) of great tasting tomatoes available in grocery stores at this time of year, I sifted through my cookbooks and came across a recipe for a tomato salad.  It called for 3 different kinds of tomatoes (plum, field, and grape), a handful of olives, a small amount of bocconcini cheese, all topped with caramelized onions, fresh basil, and a creamy yet light balsamic dressing.

Grape tomatoes grown in Ontario... what a treat!

I had a couple of girlfriends over for dinner (who asked to be referred to as N, S, and M) and they were all in love with this salad.  The sweet tomatoes and caramelized onions paired wonderfully with the salty olives, creamy bocconcini, and the tangy balsamic dressing.  The fresh basil was the cherry on top– the salad still probably would have been wonderful without but it added another dimension of flavour (and colour).

Tomato Salad (it tastes better than it looks... I promise!)

Tomato Salad with Caramelized Onions, Bocconcini Cheese & Olives
(adapted from Rose Reisman’s Family Favorites)

The recipe said to arrange the tomatoes, cheese, olives, and onions on a serving platter, then toss with the dressing.  I couldn’t figure out the logistics of tossing on a serving platter so I placed all of the ingredients into a bowl instead.  The presentation wasn’t very pretty so next time I might use a platter and simply drizzle the dressing over top.

Also, if you’ve never caramelized onions before, don’t be intimidated.  This was a first for me and it was incredibly easy!  A good non-stick pan is important, and make sure you stir the onions at regular intervals.

2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 large sweet white onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp brown sugar
2 large field tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 plum tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges
1-1/2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half
60 grams (2 oz) bocconcini cheese, thinly sliced (about 2 mini balls, or 1 large ball)
1/4 cup kalamata olives, halved

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tbsp light mayonnaise
1-1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic

3 tbsp chopped fresh basil

  1. Over medium heat, lightly coat a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and add the oil.  Saute the onion slices for 10 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned.  Add the sugar and saute for another 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. Arrange the tomatoes, bocconcini cheese, and olives on a serving platter.  Place the caramelized onions on top.
  3. Prepare the dressing by whisking together the oil, sour cream or yogurt, mayonnaise, balsamic vinegar, honey and garlic until well blended.  Pour the dressing evenly over the salad and toss (see tip above).  Garnish with basil and serve.

Salad can be prepared earlier in the day and refrigerated until ready to serve.  Dress at the last minute.

Makes 4 large servings.  Per serving: 247 kcal, 15 g fat, 3 g fibre, 320 mg sodium