For the quinoa and vegetables
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 cups dry quinoa
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1/3 to 1/2 cup diced mozzarella (about 3-4 ounces)
3/4 cup chickpeas, more if desired
For the pesto vinaigrette
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1 cup basil leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4-6 tablespoons olive or canola oil or a mixture of the two
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Make sure the tomatoes are completely dry, then drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat them all. Bake the tomatoes for about 35 minutes, flipping once, until they are brown and poufy. They will deflate when you take them out of the oven. Sprinkle with salt.
Make the quinoa: Combine the quinoa with 4 cups of water in a small, lidded saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, give it a stir, put on the lid, and turn the heat down as low as possible. Cook for 15 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Turn off the heat but leave the lid on for 5 more minutes. Then, spread the quinoa out onto a baking sheet to let it come to room temperature and dry out a bit so it doesn’t stick together when you make the salad.
Make the pesto vinaigrette by placing the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor. Pulse until minced, then add the walnuts and pulse again until they’re finely chopped. Throw in the basil and cayenne and process until smooth. Next, add the mustard and vinegar or lemon juice and pulse to make a paste. Add the oil a tablespoon at a time, processing in between, until the dressing is lightened and smooth. Taste as you go–if you like the dressing tangier, use the lesser amount of oil; if you like it a bit creamier, go for all 6 tablespoons. Taste for salt and add more if you like.
In a large mixing bowl, gently mix the quinoa with the tomatoes, avocado, mozzarella, and chickpeas. Spoon in the dressing and toss to distribute it evenly. Eat immediately, at room temperature, or cold.