Quinoa Summer Salad

Summer food is some of my favorite. The variety of fresh produce! The flavor! The color! All the exclamation points!
Ahem.
And when it comes to gorgeous summer food, salads are my standby. Not just lettuce (though hooray for all the garden greens!) but also grain and pasta salads. My kids are all um-no-thanks-mom-what-is-that-even?  I don’t care. I make the salads anyway. —Slide them on the top shelf in the fridge and eat them all week long. And this one? Oh this salad. Throw it together, toss on the dressing, and it’s about the most fresh, savory, bright meal you can imagine. It’s perfect all on it’s own, as a side, or as my husband likes to eat it, as a sort of salsa served with crispy tortilla chips. Bring it to a potluck, family reunion, picnic, or just serve it up to your Loves for dinner.

QUINOA SUMMER SALAD WITH SESAME-GINGER DRESSING

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4 cups cooked quinoa (white, red, or a blend of both)
1 1/2 cups chopped red peppers  (about 2 large peppers)
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow peppers (about 2 large peppers)
1 cup chopped red onion  (about 1/2 large red onion)
2 cups cucumber, chopped
1 1/2 cup of fresh/frozen edamame (not canned)
1 15oz can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes (Roma or cherry—fewer seeds)
1/2 cup diced scallions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

DRESSING
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup avocado oil
1/4 cup peanut oil
3 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vinegar
1 Tablespoon diced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 Tablespoons sugar

Start by cooking your quinoa. I always make extra and freeze whatever I don’t use because it freezes so well and it’s a great addition to so many things. You can use a variety of quinoa for this recipe  I like a blend of the white and red, both for color and flavor. The red quinoa is a little stronger—more nutty. Once your quinoa is cooked, refrigerate it until cool. You will be mixing a ton of fresh chopped veggies into it, and if the quinoa is warm, all those veggies will wilt.

While the quinoa is cooling you can chop the vegetables—peppers, onions, cucumber, tomatoes, scallions and cilantro. I usually just throw all the chopped veggies in one large bowl and refrigerate them until I’m ready to mix the salad. (Note: strain off any extra liquid from the vegetables before mixing them with the quinoa or it will be soupy.) Drain and rinse the black beans and thaw the edamame. Set everything aside while mixing the dressing.

The measurements above make about two cups of dressing, which will probably be more than you want for this salad, but everyone’s tastes are different. Use according to your own taste and refrigerate the rest.

(A note on oils in the dressing: I’m an oil snob. I love the weight and depth different oils bring to a dressing, but you don’t have to use each of these different kinds. You can use your own blends or simply olive oil and vegetable oil. Do try and use at least some olive oil as it adds a needed weight to the dressing.)

Mix oils (either the blends recommended above, or your own choices) and add the soy sauce, vinegar  garlic, ginger, and lime juice. Whisk until blended and feel free to taste. Sugar is a preference thing—I like my dressing a little sweet and so I’ve recommended using two tablespoons, but adjust according to your own taste. Mix well and set aside.

Blend the drained vegetables, edamame, drained and rinsed black beans, and cooled quinoa until well mixed. Use a soft spatula as a wooden or metal mixing spoon will crush the veggies and beans. Pour dressing over the salad according to your desired taste. Serve cold.

A couple extra notes:

If, like me, you have a loved one who likes a little “meat” with his meals, shrimp is an excellent addition to this sald.

This salad keeps really well—I actually make it a day ahead of when I plan to serve it as the flavors intensify and blend if it has a chance to rest.

Lastly, this recipe is huge. It makes 12 + cups of salad. Perfect for sharing. But adjust the measurements if you prefer to pare it down a bit.

Enjoy!

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