Sunday, June 10, 2012

Early Summer Salad with Quinoa and Strawberry Dressing

I'll admit that there are weeks that I just don't feel like coming up with some creative way to use my CSA share.  Thankfully, produce that grows at the same time of year almost always tastes good together.

Our first share was a perfect combination of vegetables - leeks, lettuce, mizuna, radishes, asparagus, and strawberries - so I decided to keep things simple and incorporate most of it into a salad to highlight the textures, flavors, and freshness of the produce.

The only things from that share that didn't make it in here were lettuce (which we very well could have used, but we had a big bunch of mizuna that provided plenty of greenery) and the leeks (which I caramelized and used for mujaddara in place of caramelized onions).

To make this a little more substantial, I added some quinoa, which provides protein as well as a different texture.  Some cucumbers that I had bought at the market earlier in the week also made it into the salad for some cool crunch.  The strawberries star both in the salad and in a simple dressing brightened up by a splash of balsamic vinegar, which I love with strawberries.  And, yes, it all comes together really well - it's early summer in a bowl.


Early Summer Salad with Quinoa and Strawberry Dressing
serves 4
vegan and gluten-free

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1/2 pound thin asparagus
1/4 cup almonds
1 bunch mizuna
1/2 bunch radishes
2 Persian cucumbers (or 1 medium Kirby cucumber)
1 pint small strawberries
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the quinoa well and add it to a saucepan along with 1 cup water and a large pinch of salt.  Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer until the quinoa is tender and all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil.  Prepare an ice bath by putting a few handfuls of ice cubes and enough water to cover the ice into a medium bowl.  Cut the asparagus into 1" pieces and blanch for 2 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the asparagus to the ice bath.

Spread the almonds on a plate and microwave on high power for 1 minute.  Let them cool for a few minutes, then coarsely chop and set aside.

In the meantime, wash and dry the mizuna and chop it into bite-size pieces.  Transfer to a large bowl.

Trim the radishes and cut into 3/4" pieces.  Cut the cucumber into 3/4" pieces and add to the bowl.  Drain the asparagus, pat dry, and add to the bowl.

Wash and stem the strawberries.  Add 10 berries to your blender (or the jar of a hand blender) and set aside.  Cut the remaining berries in half (leave small ones whole) and add to the bowl.

Add the water, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little more than 1/4 teaspoon salt, and lots of black pepper to the blender jar and puree.

Add the quinoa and dressing to the large bowl and toss well to combine.  Divide between 4 bowls and top each serving with 1/4 of the almonds.

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