I always enjoy eating as many meals as possible in the great outdoors, but now that the socially distanced picnic appears to be one of the safest ways to gather with loved ones outside of our own households, al fresco dining is more meaningful and pleasurable than ever.
So if you're planning to have as many dispersed picnics this summer as I am, you're going to need some new recipes in your back pocket to keep your routine from getting stale.
The salad recipe I'm sharing with you below is the perfect dish for summer picnics, if I do say so myself. It's flexible - almost any combination of spring and summer vegetables will work beautifully - and it's sturdy enough to last outside of the refrigerator for several hours with no ill effects. And I am obsessed with this dressing. Whenever I make this recipe, I always make a double batch of the dressing and put it on absolutely everything until it runs out.
If you're serving this at home, the salad is lovely presented on a platter, family-style. If you're bringing the salad to share with others on a socially-distanced picnic, simply pack up the ingredients in single-serving plastic containers for each guest. This recipe will serve 3-5 people depending on their appetites and whether you're serving the salad as an appetizer or a main course.
Please, of course, follow all recommended safety guidelines in your area, but with those in mind: go forth and enjoy the beautiful weather with a socially distanced picnic!
Summer Veggie + Quinoa Salad with Cilantro Dressing
Salad Ingredients :
1/2 cup quinoa
2 oz finely grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 oz finely grated sharp cheddar
Approximately 4 cups of seasonal vegetables, chopped and cooked as needed
1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated and washed
Cilantro leaves to garnish
Dressing Ingredients :
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, packed
2 garlic cloves
1 jalapeno pepper, halved and seeded
1/2 cup olive or grapeseed oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper
Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh sieve until the water runs clear. Transfer to a small sauce pan, add 1 cup water, and salt generously. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Quinoa should be tender with a small "tail" visible on the grains. Let cool.
Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a food processor or blender and process until the garlic and cilantro are finely minced.
Prepare the vegetables to your liking, blanching and chopping or slicing as needed. Simple is best here - I prefer these vegetables either raw or simply blanched in boiling water until tender.
Mix the cooled quinoa with the grated cheeses and 1/4 cup of the dressing. Toss the prepared vegetables with another 1/4 cup of dressing and taste them, adding additional salt and/or dressing as needed.
Line a serving platter with butter lettuce leaves. Heap the quinoa on top, and top that with the vegetables. Drizzle with a bit of additional dressing and top with cilantro leaves. NOTE: This salad is EXCELLENT with a variety of seasonal vegetables. Here I used blanched asparagus and English peas with raw scallions and cherry tomatoes, but in late summer, my favorite combination is raw scallions, red bell pepper, and fresh sweet corn. Try it with your favorites, looking for what's fresh and local!