Caprese Quinoa Bake

This recipe was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, I can not take all the credit. I was trying to figure out what to cook for dinner but was unsure. I knew I had Quinoa and a bunch of tomatoes, but was stuck on what to do with it. Ofcourse, I went to America’s number one search engine, Google. I began googling Quinoa recipes with tomatoes, etc. Low and behold I saw, Caprese Quinoa Bake.

A few things caught my attention. For starters, I am very intune with my Italian roots, more specifically Italian dishes.  Caprese come from Italy. Have you ever heard of Insalata Caprese? It means “Salad of Capri.” Caprese salad is a simple Italian salad, made of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and green basil, seasoned with salt and olive oil. It is made to resemble the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green. People have since created sandwiches using the same ingredients.

I love warm Caprese Sandwiches. These are sandwiches that are made by adding sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil or pesto to bread of choice and then drizzling with olive oil, red wine vinegar, or balsamic vinegar. It can be toasted or baked to allow for cheese to melt. In RVA, I usually get Caprese sandwiches from the following restaurants: 

Plant Zero Cafe – They have the “The Manchester” made with fresh mozzarella, pesto mayo, and fresh tomato on toasted ciabatta.

Camden’s Dogtown Market – They have the “The Caprese Press” made with fresh mozzarella, roasted red pepper, housemade pesto, and mayo.

Secondly, Quinoa. I love Quinoa. You can probably guess what I will say next. Yep! Quinoa is not only good, but it is good for you! Back in July, Medical News Today featured a piece on the health benefits and nutrional profile of Quinoa. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E, and fiber. It is one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids.

Based on the aforementioned, I loved the idea of a Caprese Quinoa Bake.

Here is my version:

Ingredients: 

2-4.9 oz boxes Near East Quinoa Blend Roasted Red Pepper & Basil

2 cups Roma and cherry tomatoes, halved (I used a blend of red and golden tomatoes)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 parts 

1/2 large sweet vidalia onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

8 oz  Bel Gioioso Fresh All-Natural Mozzarella Cheese

¼ cup packed basil leaves, thinly sliced

2 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into ¼-inch rounds

¼ cup balsamic vinegar 

Salt and pepper, to taste

Non-stick cooking spray

Instructions: 

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In small pot, prepare Quinoa blend following package instructions.

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2. While quinoa is cooking, toss the roma and cherry tomato halves in olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet lined with foil and roast in oven for about 15 minutes. On stove stop, saute garlic and onions.

3. In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa blend, roasted tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Stir in the grated mozzarella and season with salt and ground pepper to taste.

4. Transfer the quinoa mixture to a large skillet and smooth the top. 

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5. Top mixture with overlapping slices of tomatoes and mozzarella in a small circle. Sprinkle basil (or wait to do this after) Bake for 30 minutes. The first 10 minutes bake with foil loosely covering dish. Remove the last 20 minutes. 

6. Remove from oven. Sprinkle your quinoa bake with freshly sliced basil, drizzle with the balsamic reduction, and serve immediately.

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