After a week and a half of whirlwind travel through Italy and France, I’ve come to a conclusion about eating in Europe: the simplest foods – from local produce to a quick snack at the corner bodega – are the most satisfying. This is obviously a subjective observation, based only on the handful of countries I have visited in my lifetime (Spain, France, Greece, England, and Italy), but aside from some truly delicious sit-down meals, the bites that stood out the most were informal and inexpensive: a warm pain au chocolat from a nameless boulangerie in Paris, a simple tomato and mozzarella salad in Portovenere, a cone of gelato by the canal in Milan.
Rather than rushing to the kitchen to recreate complicated handmade pastas, I came back to America eager to infuse these simple, fresh flavors into everyday meals. First up: the ever-present tomato + basil + mozzarella. With a bit of avocado and a hint of lemon, my quinoa was instantly transformed into a memory of my trip to Italy. Eat this hot or cold. It should make roughly 4-5 large servings.
1.5 cups of uncooked quinoa, rinsed
8 oz of fresh mozzarella
12 oz of cherry tomatoes
1 ripe avocado
Handful of fresh basil leaves
1 tsp of red wine vinegar
Olive oil, salt, pepper
Cook quinoa according to directions. Set aside to cool.
Slice tomatoes lengthwise in half using a serrated knife. Slice the fresh mozzarella and avocado into one-inch pieces.
Use a measuring cup to combine 2 tbsp of olive oil, a tsp of red wine vinegar, about 2 tbsp of lemon juice (juice from the lemon), and fresh cracked black pepper. Whisk together your vinaigrette.
In a mixing bowl, add the quinoa, tomatoes, avocado, and mozzarella and mix. Drizzle your vinaigrette on top and mix once more. Finally, tear the basil into small pieces with your fingers and mix it into the salad, adding salt to taste.