Inevitably we overate, stained our clothes and there were tears. Four siblings loaded into our Mercury Marquis station wagon, driven to the u-pick strawberry farm and unleashed to fill a flat. It wasn’t long before one of my brothers became bored with the picking and the eating and started flinging strawberries. My Mom knew to dress me in an old shirt and the darker the better. As the youngest I was an easy target but I mostly didn’t mind. It was a small price to pay for sitting in a field surrounded by an endless supply of sweet, ruby red, locally grown strawberries. If you’ve had one you know what I am talking about. The year round imposters posing as strawberries in the produce section are just that. Impersonators of the real deal.
Seasonal, local strawberries are one of my favorite foods so I love this time of year. I’ve incorporated them in a main dish salad with quinoa and baby salad greens. I used red quinoa for its vibrant color and beautiful background for the greens and strawberries, but white quinoa can be used too. I love the substance quinoa gives to the salad, literally filling you up and giving you the benefits of protein. It’s nutty, earthy flavor is the perfect compliment to sweet strawberries.
Crispy caramelized almonds, a minty Balsamic vinaigrette and goat cheese crumbles round out the ingredients and they can all be prepped ahead of time. As always, your favorite bottled vinaigrette can be substituted in the interest of saving time but I think homemade is worth the extra effort.
Uncooked Red Quinoa
Cooked Red Quinoa
- ¾ cup quinoa (red or white quinoa)
- Kosher salt
- ¾ cup sliced or slivered almonds
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 12 cups baby salad greens (about 6 ounces)
- 2 cups halved strawberries
- 4 oz crumbled goat cheese (1 cup)
- Balsamic Mint Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- In a fine mesh strainer rinse quinoa; drain and transfer to a saucepan. Add 1-1/2 cups water and a pinch of salt; bring to a boil, stir, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer just until soft and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Spread quinoa on a tray and cool to room temperature (quinoa can be prepared to this point and refrigerated several days).
- Stir together almonds and sugar in a medium size skillet. Over medium heat, cook and stir until sugar melts and almonds are golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper or a pan sprayed with vegetable spray, spreading out in a single layer; allow to cool to room temperature.
- In a large bowl, toss together salad greens, quinoa and the vinaigrette. Add almonds, strawberries and goat cheese and toss gently.
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
Whisk together vinegar, mint, honey, Dijon and lemon zest. Whisk in olive oil until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Makes ⅔ cup.