Summer Quinoa Salad, Mexican-Style

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Most of the time, combining my favorite foods into one dish leads to greatness. Chocolate and peanut butter? Boom. (And boom and boom. I cannot get enough of this combo.) Beer and cheese? Delicious separately, even better together. So let’s not pretend, even for a second, that esquites + guacamole could be anything but amazing.

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Obvi we all know the pros of guac — it’s creamy and spicy and slightly sour (I like a lot of lime juice) and just really friggin’ good. And esquites, as I’ve mentioned before, are my new favorite way to eat corn. Fresh kernels are cut off the cob and sauteed until charred, then tossed with chili powder, cilantro, sour cream, cotija (or feta) and plenty of lime juice — they’re sweet and sour and salty and spicy and creamy and crunchy and crisp, and if cutting kernels off of corn cobs wasn’t such a pain in the butt, I’d eat esquites every day.

This summer quinoa salad takes those two amazing things and meshes them together, then adds cherry tomatoes and quinoa for a picnic side dish that wins all the prizes. Since the guac is so creamy, I didn’t add any sour cream or cheese, meaning this salad is vegan-friendly — a boon given that most summer fare is either grilled meat or slathered in mayo.*

It’s already August (where did the time go? what have I been doing??), so you only have a month to enjoy this salad. Good thing is, it takes 10 minutes to make, so you can eat it again and again and again. Or am I the only one who’s doing that?

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*Looking for more vegan-friendly picnic fare? Try this no-mayo coleslaw or this smashed avocado and chickpea salad. If you make your own pesto and omit the cheese, this pesto potato salad with green beans is delicious too!

Summer Quinoa Salad
Adapted heavily from What’s Gaby Cooking
Serves 4 as a side dish

– 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

– 3 ears of corn, kernels cut from cob

– 1/2 tablespoon chipotle powder or other smoky chili powder

– 1 ripe avocado

– 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided

– 1/4 cup sliced green onions, divided

– 1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced

– juice of 2 limes, divided

– 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions and cooled (should yield 2 cups of cooked quinoa)

– 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

– salt and pepper, to taste

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1) Heat the olive oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add the corn kernels and cook on medium-high heat for 3 minutes, letting them brown (do not touch or stir them). After one side is charred, toss the kernels and let another side cook, undisturbed, for 2-3 minutes, repeating until the kernels are evenly charred on all sides. Toss with the chipotle or chili powder, then set aside to cool.

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2) In a large bowl, mash the avocado, half of the cilantro, half of the green onions, serrano pepper and juice of one lime (congrats — you just made a basic guac).

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3) Stir in the cooled corn, quinoa and cherry tomatoes. Toss with the remaining cilantro, green onions and lime juice, then add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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