This is the story of a picnic that didn’t happen, twice.
We had full intentions of getting together with friends, having a picnic together on the island. However, after a weather forecast of 100% rain, the plans were abandoned. Rob and I stayed at home and relished in a relaxing afternoon together.
Together, we still continued with our picnic menu: Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Dried Iranian Limes. I figured a grain salad would travel well but may not be too picnic-friendly (who was going to bring plates?) so I thought it would be neat to stuff it into a wrap. Rice paper rolls for company and kale wraps for me! I figured a tahini dipping sauce would bring this over the edge, so we plunged forward with our ornate plans.
Ottolenghi called this a quinoa salad, but really it is a quinoa-basmati-wild rice salad. The mix of grains tickles the tongue with the contrasting textures. They are paired with roasted sweet potatoes in a savoury dressing with sauteed sage and oregano and fresh mint. Oh, and dried Iranian lime. A hard to find ingredient that I picked up while in NYC at Kalustyan’s (although it is available locally). You can stop right here and have yourself a delicious salad. Perfectly balanced, it was a nice salad. Definitely Thanksgiving friendly, I might add.
However, I took the next step: tofu feta. Tofu marinaded in lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic and miso, coupled with a creamy cashew sauce. I will admit that this does not taste at all like feta. It did, however, have a nice burst of lemony tartness and miso greatness. The cashew sauce added to the silkiness that was wonderful once we wrapped them up. I am definitely no stranger to wrapping up salads, having everything hit your palate at the same time.
So after the wrap, we took it one step further. A sweet tahini dipping sauce with garlic.
We had hit it: Gastronomic bliss.
By this time, though, it had started raining and we couldn’t do our own picnic, either. So we went upstairs and picnicked on the windowsill, watching it rain in all its glory. We do a little cheer every time it rains since it means we don’t have to water the garden. 😉
We also found out that these were very messy rolls… and best to eat with a plate underneath. 😉
500g sweet potatoes (2 medium sized), chopped into 1-2 cm chunks (peeled optional)
1/2 cup dry quinoa, rinsed well
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1/8 cup wild rice
1/2 cup minus 2 tbsp brown basmati rice
1 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tbsp shredded sage leaves
3 tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 tbsp ground Iranian lime (if not available try lemon zest or sumac)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
tofu feta (see below)
1. Preheat oven to 400F. In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, drizzle with a bit of oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a metal tray lined with a silpat and roast for 20-40 minutes, until tender. Set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, cook your rice as per its directions. We just put the wild rice and brown basmati rice in the rice cooker together.
3. Meanwhile, cook your quinoa. Bring vegetable broth to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add quinoa. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Keep covered for an additional 5 minutes to steam. Set aside. Combine with the rice mixture after it has cooked.
4. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, or until it turns golden. Add the sage and oregano, and saute for 1 minute. Do not allow anything to burn. Add the oil and herbs to the cooked grains. Add the dried lime, mint, green onions, lemon juice and mix well. Fold in the sweet potatoes and season to taste.
5. If you want to stop here for just the salad, don’t forget to add in the feta.
6. For each rice paper roll, immerse the dry roll in the warm water for 5 seconds, and then transport and lay on top of a wet cloth. In a line in the middle of the wrapper, add 1/4 cup of salad. Top with the creamy feta. Roll up the wrapper from your side first, flip in the edges and continue to roll it closed. Cover with another wet towel as you assemble the remainder of the rolls..
7. Make your dipping sauce (see below), and dip rolls into the dipping sauce.
Creamy Tofu Feta
Adapted from Our Veggie Kitchen
1 lb tofu (firm, water packed) – we used soft tofu which is not ideal since it will crumble
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp miso
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup cashews, preferably soaked at least 2-3 hours and then drained
2 tsp olive oil
1. Drain the tofu and press for 30 minutes as you gather the rest of your ingredients. Cut into 2-cm slices.
2. In a leak-proof sealable plastic bag, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, miso, salt and garlic. Place tofu in the bag, and allow to marinate in the refrigerator at least 24 hours, preferably 2-3 days. Move the bag around to make sure the tofu is covered as it marinates.
3. When ready to eat your tofu, in a food processor fitted with its S-blade, process the soaked cashews, oil and 2 tbsp of the marinade until smooth. Remove the tofu from the marinade, crumbling it as you go. Toss with the cashew sauce.
1/4 cup tahini
2 tbsp water, or more to reach your desired consistency
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp agave
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1.5 tbsp mirin
1. In a small cup, whisk together all ingredients until smooth. Add more water to reach desired consistency.