Summer is a time for light, flavourful and—above all—easy food. I rarely cook with recipes in the summer, preferring instead to improvise barbecue marinades and salads. My favourite summer salads are usually also improvised—inspired by whatever I just bought at the market or is in my fridge.
The once little-known quinoa was all over the news a few years ago, touted as a new "superfood" because it is a high-protein whole grain. I took to it immediately for its other qualities: ease of cooking, flavour, and versatility. Earlier in the summer I was eating my lunch outside with a colleague whose fresh, brightly-coloured salad looked far more appealing than my lunch. I did two things: I ate half of her salad and then went home and made my own version that very week. Here is what I made but you can substitute anything you like.
Summer Quinoa Salad
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water (or stock)
- 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained (substitute any other canned bean)
- 1 red (or yellow or orange) bell pepper, diced
- 1 bunch of basil, chopped
- 1 mini cucumber diced
- 1 mango, diced
- 1 avocado, diced
- juice of one lemon or lime
- olive oil (a generous dash)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse and drain quinoa. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a pot, turn heat down to medium-low and continue cooking until all or most of the liquid has been absorbed (15 to 20 minutes). Cool quinoa to room or fridge temperature.
- Add all other ingredients and toss. Taste for seasoning. If you won't be eating the salad for a few hours, you may want to dice and add the avocado closer to eating. The salad keeps well in the fridge and can be eaten cold or at room temperature.
The library has many cookbooks with quinoa recipes.
Fresh green beans are another favourite salad addition. At a friend's home recently, the host served a simple salad composed of steamed green beans, halved mission figs, quickly sauteed shitaake mushrooms and chopped green onions served over greens and dressed with oil, wine vinegar, salt and pepper. The flavours were the perfect start to a summer dinner with friends. If you want more inspiration for salads containing green beans, I recommend taking a look at Food Gawker.
I just happened to eat lunch with the same quinoa-salad colleague today and guess what she had for lunch? Yup. A salad. With lettuce, kale and sugar snap peas from her garden. Guess what I'm making tomorrow.
Do you have a favourite summer salad? Share it in the comments below!
More Summer Salad Inspiration: