Roasted Cauliflower and Rainbow Carrot Quinoa Salad with Tahini Dressing

Roasted Cauliflower and Rainbow Carrot Quinoa Salad with Tahini Dressing

Thank you all so much for the awesome feedback and support on Monday’s post! It’s pretty thrilling to kick this book journey off here, and I’m excited to have some friends and readers along for the ride. The nice comments made it slightly less scary!

I have quite a few ideas for posts about the writing process and book process, but today, I want to send you off with a recipe for an easy, really healthy and very delicious salad that is perfect for this time of year. I made it up a couple weekends ago when I saw that I had some rainbow carrots on hand and a whole head of cauliflower that needed to be eaten. Those two things + the need to make a salad that would appeal to a small crowd for Ben’s birthday party led to this concoction and I have to say that it was pretty fantastic. It’s a great salad for this time of year when it sometimes feels like spring so you still want something wholesome, but sometimes feels like summer and so you don’t want anything heavy. It’s a tough sensation to describe, but this salad satisfies both of those requirements.

I think roasting vegetables is one of my favorite ways to prepare them. It’s by far one of the easiest way to get your veggies in…just chop up what you want to roast into smaller pieces (ideally the same size if everything is going into one dish together), drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle with some kosher or sea salt and a few good cracks of black pepper on top, and then you’re done! Into the oven they go, and you can move onto bigger and better things. Like watching at least one episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. [<– Highly recommend…I laughed non-stop through the entire season and may or may not have finished it in two days. I never do that with shows, but this one got me!] Anyway. I honestly think that roasted veggies are just fabulous because they’re so easy, their colors enhance and slightly golden during the cooking process and they just taste ridiculously good when they’re done. Win win.

Roasted Cauliflower and Rainbow Carrot Quinoa Salad with Tahini Dressing

One caveat to this recipe: please, please, please buy regular carrots. I mean the ones that have not been cut into baby carrot shapes or crinkle-cuts. Yes, you could use baby carrots in place of the long, uncut variety (and if you need to use them in a pinch, go for it) but I will warn you that the flavor won’t be as great. Even better — get some carrots from your local farmers market or farmer. They will blow your mind with how good they taste. One thing that I’ve learned over the past couple years is that it is totally worth buying long, unpeeled carrots (preferably with the greens still attached) when they are the star of a dish.* These carrots tasted so fresh, sweet, and not too earthy. I know that had I used baby carrots, they would have tasted flat and flavorless at the end. You could easily sub in regular orange carrots for rainbow carrots if you can’t find the colorful version. Those will work great and you shouldn’t have a significant taste difference. 

*Carrot greens are a great addition to homemade chicken or vegetable stock, or you can get other recipe inspiration for them from The Kitchn. Yay for less waste!

Roasted Cauliflower and Rainbow Carrot Quinoa Salad with Tahini Dressing

The dressing for this salad was a quick mash-up of some tahini paste, lemon juice, olive oil, honey and salt and pepper. I honestly didn’t really measure these so the below are approximate. I would just make the dressing in a separate bowl and taste before you add into the dish. 

If you’re heading out to a Memorial Day picnic this weekend, I think you have a great option to take with you in this salad! It eats well refrigerated or at room temperature. This served about 12 people as a side dish (granted, it was for a potluck so there was plenty of food all around), but I think would serve 6 to 8 as a larger part of a meal, too. Enjoy!

Roasted Cauliflower and Rainbow Carrot Quinoa Salad with Tahini Dressing
Serves 8
Spring produce is roasted and then combined with nutty quinoa in a tahini dressing; a light salad perfect for lunch or a party. Serves 6 to 8 (as a larger side dish) or up to 12 (as a smaller side).
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For salad
  1. 6 to 8 rainbow carrots, rinsed and sliced into 1/2" rounds on a bias
  2. 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  5. 5 to 6 good cracks of fresh black pepper
  6. 2 cups quinoa (I used a multi-color variety here)
  7. 4 cups water
  8. 2 teaspoons butter (or vegan butter to make dairy-free/vegan)
  9. 6 to 8 springs of fresh cilantro, chopped
For dressing
  1. 2 tablespoons tahini
  2. juice of 1/2 a lemon
  3. 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
  4. 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  5. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  6. 1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper (~3 good cracks)
  7. small drizzle of honey (sub in agave if vegan)
  8. dash of red pepper flakes, optional
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. On a baking sheet (you may need two; one for carrots and one for cauliflower), lay out the carrot and cauliflower pieces into one even layer. Drizzle olive oil on top and the sprinkle on the salt and pepper. Toss lightly on the baking sheet using a spatula.
  2. Move baking sheet into the preheated oven and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, flipping vegetables over once, halfway through cooking. Remove from oven when cauliflower and carrots look golden and slightly crispy on the sides.
  3. While the vegetables roast, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Then, combine quinoa and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add in butter, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes until the water is mostly absorbed and the quinoa kernel slightly separates (you can see a small white circle separate from the seed). Remove quinoa from heat when finished cooking, drain any remaining water off and then let sit.
  4. Prepare dressing by whisking together all ingredients together, from tahini to honey (or agave). Add in red pepper flakes if using. Taste the dressing and adjust seasonings to suit your level of sweetness/saltiness.
  5. To prepare the salad, layer the cooked quinoa in a large serving dish and top with roasted vegetables. Sprinkle fresh cilantro on top. If serving immediately, drizzle dressing on top and lightly toss to combine. If serving more than an hour later (this can be made a day or two ahead), cover the salad in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove 15 minutes before you want to serve and add the cilantro and dressing at that time.
Meghan Bollenback

10 thoughts on “Roasted Cauliflower and Rainbow Carrot Quinoa Salad with Tahini Dressing

    1. Yes, so glad you can make it tonight! That’s honestly how I came up with it and am happy to share.

  1. Roasting vegetables is the only way to go! I’m not a fan of soggy anything…so a little bit of crunch is preferred. The tahini dressing sounds delish. I will admit that I don’t make my own dressing, but I think that I should!

    And I totally agree about the whole carrots vs. the pre-cut ones. They definitely have more flavor.
    Lauren | Just a Pinch recently posted…I’ve found my peopleMy Profile

    1. Haha, I was just saying the other night that I need to get in the habit of making a jar of dressing on Sundays and using it for the whole week. I don’t like many bottled dressings and lately I’ve been lazy so I just throw on some vinegar with salt and pepper and call it a day. It’s not as good as when I actually take a few minutes to make my own, though!

    1. I’m glad that I’m not the only one to notice the difference! Regular carrots are so much better in dishes like this. Thank you for the nice compliments on the photos…I honestly feel like I got lucky on that first shot.

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