tomato, arugula, & quinoa salad with rosemary basil pesto

A love affair bloomed in February. Between a homebody's taste buds and a soft, yet perfectly textured, nutty pseudocereal. Or simply put, me and that delicious thing that most of us pronounced "kin-O-uh" before we found out the actual pronunciation. Sure, I had tried it a few times in the past, but recently something just sparked. I just can't get enough of the darn thing. I suppose that's not so bad, though. It's versatility and nutrient-dense content seems to be everything one healthy(ish) foodie could hope for.
Around this time, I found a pleasant email in my inbox from The Florida Tomato Committee, asking if I'd be interested in developing an original recipe for them using a sampling of Florida farm-fresh tomatoes to help celebrate the month of April as Fresh Florida Tomato Month. As I read through it, Summer had outlined what the process would entail, and that my recipe would be published on The Florida Tomato Committee's website along with recipes from a handful of other bloggers. It was flattering to read, and definitely exciting, as it was my first time being monetarily compensated for recipe developing!

My brain immediately went to work. My first thoughts were to keep it healthy, wholesome, and to highlight the freshness of the tomatoes. I tried brainstorming out-of-the-box ideas, but I soon found myself back to the comfort of a simple basil + tomato combo. What can you really expect from an Italian girl, though? And just as I had almost forgot about that affair with quinoa, it hit me.

"It would be just perfect," I thought. And the rest just flowed... "something cool & creamy, something bright & herb-y, something a little peppery." Alas, the recipe had been developed.

A tomato salad, layered with arugula and quinoa, drizzled with a light rosemary basil pesto and topped with creamy crumbled goat cheese.

I sent my idea over to Summer, and the next thing I knew I had a huge box at my front door from The Florida Tomato Committee. In it was a styrofoam cooler filled with a never-before-seen (at least from my eyes) fruit/vegetable ripener bowl, and copious amounts of Florida tomatoes. It was fantastic. The unripened, orange-hued fruits were begging me to place them in my ripener and await the color transformation to a deep, rich (& juicy) red. I ate at least one a day. Usually sliced and drizzled with my grandpa's recipe for homemade balsamic vinaigrette.... Bliss.

 The final dish came out just as I had hoped. It can be "dressed up" or "dressed down," which is yet another reason I adore this salad. In other words, you can arrange it on a platter for a casual dinner party/lunch gathering/etc. as I've shown in the photos, or simply chop it up & toss together for a quick weekday lunch. And a very wholesome lunch at that.

Choosing local produce and eating seasonally is something I feel strongly about, so I'm really happy to help celebrate the Florida tomato at it's peak month!

You can find my recipe + directions on The Florida Tomato Committee's website via this link :) If you have a few minutes to spare, give their site a browse. They have some really good tips about how to properly store your tomatoes to maintain maximum freshness and taste!


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