Confetti Quinoa Salad

Confetti Quinoa Salad | A Sweet Spoonful

We just returned from my mom’s cabin on Lake George in upstate New York where we often spend the 4th of July. As usual, each bedroom was packed with family members (this year the couch was even occupied for a night), and our days with reading, lounging on the dock, swimming a bit, maybe jogging down the road or playing tennis if you were feeling ambitious. We drank a notable amount of seltzer water; I managed to read three books and my mom threw us a family baby shower complete with balloons, chocolate cake and Mike’s rhubarb bars.

In previous years, my mom has planned most of the dinners and  even some lunches, but for breakfast we’d all fend for ourselves. I’d often bake a pie or a batch of brownies in the afternoon and everyone would help out where they could, but she would largely do the shopping and brunt of the cooking. This year was different: having just moved from California to Vermont, my mom had a lot on her plate and sent out an email before the holiday weekend asking us all to chip in and help with the meals. Sam and I claimed Friday dinner: we grilled sausages and Sam made his famous deviled eggs. We cut up some unusually seedy watermelon that I found at the co-op in Burlington before we drove out to the lake, and I made a summery quinoa salad that I expected to be kind of epic. The trouble was that it wasn’t. I overcooked the quinoa until it was kind of a congealed mush and everything just went downhill from there. But I knew that the idea was strong — to pack a whole grain salad with all the things of summer (corn! tomatoes! basil!) — so when we got home to Seattle I tried again. And this time it’s a winner.


Confetti Quinoa Salad | A Sweet Spoonful

For our book club this past Monday I made a similar quinoa salad from an old issue of Bon Appetit with herbed goat cheese and some fresh peaches I picked up at the farmers market. I made beet hummus to go with it; Natalie brought summery tomato garlic toasts and Sarah brought pita to go with the hummus and gelato for dessert. It was the perfect colorful mishmash of a meal that I think makes summer eating so wonderful. Natalie said it best: It’s all so easy when everything is so fresh and beautiful.

Confetti Quinoa Salad | A Sweet Spoonful

I was inspired by the recipe from book club and decided to take another stab at my supposed-to-be-epic quinoa salad. I kept Bon Appetit’s quick pickled onions, but added a mishmash of summery ingredients I had on hand. It’s so colorful and smashing it looks like confetti straight from a pinata, so that’s what I decided to call it. Now if the pickled onions feel like a step you’re just not into, you could leave them out altogether (although I think they’re crazy delicious) but make sure to add a little acid to round out the flavors of the salad — I’d start with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, taste and adjust as needed. The nice thing about the onions, I will say, is that the recipe below makes a bit more than you really need for the salad, so you’re set for future salads, sandwiches, or tacos.

Lake George | A Sweet Spoonful

2015-07-05 19.10.25

2015-07-05 19.14.57

Confetti Quinoa Salad

Confetti Quinoa Salad

  • Yield: 6 as a side portion
  • Prep time: 10 mins
  • Cook time: 25 mins
  • Inactive time: 45 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr 20 mins

You can make this salad about 6 hours ahead if you’d like: to do so, just leave out the basil and greens and fold them in right before serving. While I didn’t use it this time around, I think this salad would be great with some creamy goat cheese and if you’re looking to amp up the protein, you could always fold in a few handfuls of your favorite beans or marinated tofu. And remember you’ll have leftover pickled onions, so be sure to save them for future sandwiches and salads. Once you get used to having them around, they make for a most beloved condiment.

Ingredients

For the Pickled Onions:

1 small red onion, sliced 1/8-inch thick
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons sugar

For the Salad:

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
2 ears corn, shucked
1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes (a little less than 1 pint)
1 cup arugula or spinach, stems trimmed, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if necessary
salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Place onion in a small bowl. Bring vinegar, salt and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to ensure they’re mixed well. Pour over onion slices and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain but reserve the pickling liquid. Roughly chop the onions and set aside.

Bring quinoa, 3 cups of water and a generous pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover and reduce the heat; simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and spread into large salad bowl to cool.

Place both ears of corn in a large pot of boiling water. Allow the water in the pot to come back to a boil, cover, and cook on low for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Remove from pot and set on a dry, clean surface to cool. Once cool enough to handle, slice the corn off the cob by balancing a flat end of the cob on a cutting board and using a downward cutting motion with a nice, sharp knife. This should yield about 1 1/2 cups corn kernels for the salad.

In a large salad bowl, toss together corn, tomatoes, arugula, 1 cup chopped onions (use more if you’d like), basil and chives. Add olive oil and 3 tablespoons of the reserved pickling liquid. Fold in quinoa and stir well. Season with salt and pepper and more pickling liquid if you’d like.

Comments

  1. Eileen

    Yes! This is the best kind of salad to make when you just want to enjoy all the beautiful fruits of summer. So good.

  2. Jessica Reed

    Just figured out what I'll be having for lunch every day next week...thank you!

  3. Jordan

    I second Jessica's comment! Having a family compound where everyone can sojourn is one of my dreams! Nothing fancy, just family, food, and some sort of body of water. Just have to finish medical school first!

  4. Emily

    True summer in a bowl! Pickled onions add such a great touch to salads. Beautiful!

  5. cate

    Which books did you read?

  6. Anne

    Mama G moved to Vermont?!

  7. Caitlin @ teaspoon

    Those pickled onions look amazing! I didn't realize you could pickle them so quickly. I love the colors too- you can definitely "eat the rainbow" with this salad. I'll be at my lake cabin next week too so I think I'll have to give this a try!

  8. Marilyn

    Oh, this is just a perfect salad for anytime, especially summer when the fruit and veggies are so abundant and fresh. Thanks!!!

  9. Kristie

    I can't believe you were in Burlington at my co-op! Next time you're in town, I'm sure our local bookstore would love to host a book signing :)

  10. Heather

    We've been trying to eat healthier meals, so this is definitely going on my "to-make" list! Thanks for sharing!

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