Food blogging has its perks. Sometimes, people offer to send me cookbooks. Sometimes, I find recipes in said books worth sharing with you all. This recipe, by Gena Hamshaw of Choosing Raw and the author of Food52 Vegan: 60 Vegetable-Driven Recipes for Any Kitchen, is one of them.
This recipe jumped out to me since savory sweet potatoes, kale, quinoa and pesto are a few of my favorite ingredients. It also seemed like a salad that would pack well for yesterday’s flights, and it did. I feel so accomplished when I arrive at the airport with a healthy meal in tow. Which, to be clear, is almost never. It’s a miracle when I remember to bring socks!
I found the final kicker in Gena’s headnote, which suggested that this is a salad for August or September, when basil is plentiful at farmers’ markets and sweet potatoes are just becoming available. Since September is almost over, I thought I’d better hurry up and make it.
I’m generally inclined to throw feta or goat cheese into my salads, so this salad was an exercise in restraint for me. I was also tempted to toss in some dried cranberries, too, or substitute pepitas for sunflower seeds, but it’s honestly just right as is. Note to self: less can be more, especially when an outrageously flavorful pesto-inspired dressing is involved.
I’m exploring the Pittsburgh area today with DeLallo and friends, so I’m signing off early. Be sure to let me know what you think of this salad and check out Gena’s book, Food52 Vegan, if you’re interested in vegan cooking or looking for dairy-free inspiration!
- 2 medium sweet potatoes (about ¾ pound total), peeled and diced into ½-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1¾ cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups stemmed and finely chopped curly kale
- ½ cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds*
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
- ½ cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup firmly packed fresh parsley leaves
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or agave nectar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
- To prepare the sweet potatoes, transfer them to the prepared baking sheet and toss them with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes, then toss and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until tender and browning. Set the pan aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, combine the rinsed quinoa and broth in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid, about 20 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and set aside to cool.
- To make the vinaigrette, combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until mostly smooth, but with small pieces of herbs still visible.
- Transfer the chopped kale to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and then use your hands to “massage” the kale, grabbing big handfuls at a time and gently squeezing them in your fist until the kale is darker in color and more fragrant, about 15 seconds.
- Add the sweet potatoes, quinoa, kale, sunflower seeds and sliced basil to the bowl. Drizzle with about ⅓ cup dressing and gently toss until all of the ingredients are evenly coated. Taste and mix in more dressing if desired.
- Serve the salad at room temperature or cold. Leftovers will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 days.
Change it up: Butternut would be a great substitution for the sweet potato, as would pepitas for the sunflower seeds.
*How to toast your own sunflower seeds: If you only have raw, unsalted sunflower seeds at home (like me), toast them in a small skillet over medium heat with ¼ teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cook until they're turning lightly golden on the edges, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.