This vibrant cauliflower pesto salad recipe is inspired by a memorable dish I enjoyed last summer on the island of Ibiza. It was at a restaurant called El Silencio which sits on a picturesque little beach called Cala Moli. El Silencio is a sand-under-your-feet, raw wood tables, thatched roof style chiringuito (beach restaurant), and it’s menu didn’t disappoint.

We started our lunch with their homemade focaccio from the clay oven, followed by fresh hamashi sashimi alongside the coldest, most refreshing bottle of sparkling water I’ve ever had. I’m not sure how they achieved that level of coldness, but it truly was amazing and made the perfect refreshment on such a hot day alongside a jug of sangria.

We followed up our starters with a pasta dish and their cauliflower pesto salad, gthe latter of which was such a highlight I knew I had to recreate it. The cauliflower and broccoli florets had the most amazing texture and juciness to them, it was as if they’d been cooked in a seasoned broth, yet they were still firm and definitely didn’t have that boiled cauliflower smell or taste. Similarly, the quinoa also had a delicious flavour to it, combined with fresh green leaves and toasted pine nuts the combination was just perfect.

After a bit of experimentation with the cooking of the cauliflower and quinoa, I have recreated this recipe for you to enjoy now too. We’ve been enjoying this dish whenever I come across a romanesco broccoli (which look like green cauliflower) and when I can’t find one but still crave this salad I substitute with regular broccoli. You could also use purple cauliflower in place of the romanesco or keep it super simple and double the amount of regular white cauliflower. If you choose to make your own pesto for this recipe using my plant-based green pesto recipe below, it’s full of spinach and herby greens so you won’t miss the green romanesco if you can’t find any.

I hope you enjoy this quinoa pesto cauliflower salad as much we do!

Cauliflower, Quinoa Pesto Salad - vegan recipe

Cauliflower Quinoa Pesto Salad with Spinach & Pine Nuts

Serves: 4
Prep time: 30 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes

1 cup quinoa
2 tsp vegetable bouillon (or your favourite veggie stock)
1/2 head cauliflower
1/2 head romanesco broccoli (green cauliflower)
2 cups/large handfuls baby spinach leaves, washed
1 handful basil leaves
1 /2 cup green pesto (storebought or see below for a vegan recipe)
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
salt + pepper
Extra virgin olive oil to serve

 

To make the salad:
Cook the quinoa according to packet instructions with 1tsp of vegetable bouillon added to the cooking water.

Toast the pine nuts in a 160C oven for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cut the caulflower and romanesco broccoli into large florets. Steam the cauliflower and romanesco broccoli either using a steamer pot or simply add 2 cm of water to a large saucepan and 1 tsp of vegetable bouillon. Bring the liquid to a simmer then add the florets and cover with a lid. Check after a few minutes and stir as needed to ensure the florets are evenly cooked. The aim is to gently steam the florets so they’re cooked but retain their colour and firm texture.

While the florets are steaming, add the washed greens to a large mixing bowl along with the cooked quinoa, toasted pine nuts and pesto. Add the steamed cauliflower and romanesco broccoli and toss until the pesto is thoroughly mixed through.

Transfer salad to a large serving dish or individual plates if desired. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.

 

Vegan Basil Pesto
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 cup cashews, almonds, pine nuts
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp pink Himalayan salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast (savoury yeast flakes)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

To make the basil pesto:
Wash the basil and spinach leaves well, drain and place in a food processor along with the garlic and salt. Pulse/blend until they resemble coarse crumbs.

Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to combine but be careful not to over blend. You’re aiming for a chunky pesto rather than a smooth sauce.

Store the pesto in a jar in the fridge for up to 5 days (can also be frozen for up to 3 months).

 

Cauliflower, Quinoa Pesto Salad - vegan recipe