Summer eating presents some challenges – primarily, the conundrum is I’m still hungry all the time, but the foods that are appealing when the weather is hot don’t really fill me up. I’d like to live on popsicles, watermelon, and iced coffee but nutritionally it’s not a sound plan. What I really need is something fresh and light with enough substance to make it worth eating, and of course delicious enough to make it work preparing. To my way of thinking; time in the kitchen when the weather is beautiful better be well spent!
I’ve eaten just about every permutation of this salad, as the credits below demonstrate, and I love all of them but this one has just the right amount of everything. Rich, nutty quinoa and grape tomatoes are tossed with a lime vinaigrette and pulled back from the brink of too acidic by mild, sweet corn and the mellow basil. A symphony of summery flavors.
It’s easy to make ahead, can be tossed with a few leafy greens, or further dinner-ized with some grilled chicken (perhaps Tequila Citrus? - more on that Wednesday), which makes it worthy of your Sunday afternoon efforts and makes Monday night dinner a snap.
Basil, Corn & Quinoa Salad (serves: 4-6)
1 cup dried quinoa
4 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/3 cup (3-4 limes) fresh lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, julienned
Ground black pepper
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the ears of corn for 3 minutes to remove the starchy texture. Drain and immerse the corn in ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color. When the corn is cool, use a chef’s knife to cut the kernels off the cob. Place the kernels in a large bowl and set aside to continue cooling.
Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the quinoa and 1 teaspoon of salt, lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, until the grains are tender and open – they’ll look like they have little curly tails. While the quinoa cooks, juice the limes and combine with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper. When the quinoa is done, drain in a fine sieve, place in a bowl and immediately add the lime dressing. Toss to coat well and place the bowl in the refrigerator to cool.
Slice the grape tomatoes in half length-wise, julienne the basil leaves, and slice the red onion in very thin quarter moons. Add the vegetables and the reserved corn kernels to the dressed quinoa and fold together. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lime juice, if needed. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold.
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes and no. This does take a few more items than I usually like to use, but the results are delicious, so… forgive me? I used a large pot (for the corn), a medium pot (for the quinoa) - note if you're organized the one large pot could suffice with a wash in between - two medium mixing bowls, a medium sieve, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, and large mixing spoon. Tongs are also super helpful for removing the corn from the boiling water.
If it’s possible to fall in love with a salad, then I’ve fallen in love with this one. Something about the balance of flavors has me craving the bite of citrus, cool tomatoes, and rich quinoa. I served it along side Tequila Citrus Chicken, but it could easily be the main event. Be forewarned: it’s easy to stuff yourself with it’s deliciousness and not even realize it until you need to be rolled away from the table.