This past week-end, we celebrated summer (or what few days of it we’re getting this year anyway) by having a little impromptu family picnic at my mom’s place. We spent the entire day under the warm sun, right by the poolside, enjoying good food and good times in good company. This beautiful Quinoa Broccoli Salad was one of my [many] contributions to the feast.
It had been so long since I’d last had quinoa, I had totally forgotten just how much I loved it. I just can’t seem to get enough of how each little grain feels like it pops in your mouth as you squish ’em between your teeth. One thing’s for sure, quinoa is the grain, or seed, or whatever it is that it actually is, that has the coolest texture of all.
And it was JUST what this salad needed, too: another awesome texture to add to the already extensive array that it has to offer. For really, this salad is a true party of textures AND flavors happening in your mouth with every bite you take; each time, you get to experience a whole range of textures, from crunchy to chewy to creamy and “poppy”. As well, your taste buds get hit by a crazy variety of flavors, ranging from sweet to salty, from nutty and tangy to summery fresh and fruity.
Just look at all the beautiful ingredients that went into the making of this salad!
Of course, I started with quinoa which had been previously cooked and cooled. Talk about a perfect way to use leftovers!
Then, I threw in generous amounts of:
- super fresh and crunchy finely chopped broccoli and celery;
- chewy pieces of dried apricots and cranberries;
- deliciously refreshing and highly aromatic chopped parsley and mint;
- nutty and creamy toasted pine nuts;
- deliciously silky and tangy fresh goat cheese.
As for the dressing, I kept things real simple: the juice of a lime, a few tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar, a hint of honey, salt, pepper, and a splash of vanilla. Yes, you read that one right. Vanilla! You’d be surprised what a magnificent and exotic aroma it actually adds to this dish!
Can you imagine the explosion of textures and flavors? It’s a real party, I tell you!
Another great thing about this quinoa salad recipe is that you can have loads of fun playing around with the ingredients, to accommodate your mood of the moment, or the current content of your fridge and pantry.
If you wanted to turn it into a complete meal and add some kind of protein to it, leftover cooked chicken would be a fantastic addition. I’m thinking that hard boiled eggs would also work really well…
As for the existing components, if you wanted to replace the dried fruit with fresh, I’m certain that oranges, fresh peaches or apricots would work very well in lieu of the dried apricots, whereas grapes would replace the dried cranberries with much style. Don’t have pine nuts? I can very well imagine how good a replacement toasted almonds or hazelnuts would make. I bet walnuts would also be terrific!
In the vegetables department, you can really let your imagination go wild: chopped endives, kohlrabi, or cabbage instead of celery, raw asparagus or chopped Brussels sprouts instead of broccoli…
And if you’re not a fan of goat cheese, beautiful chunks of ripe avocado would give you that same creamy mouthfeel…
As you can see, you have plenty of options!
This salad is also extremely easy to make! Once you have everything prepped and ready to go, all you’ll need to do is combine all the ingredients for the salad, expect for the goat cheese, in a large mixing bowl.
The goat cheese is extremely delicate, so we’ll be adding it at the very end, otherwise it’ll only end up “melting” and completely blend in the salad.
I strongly suggest that you do just the same with your avocado, should you choose to replace the goat cheese with it…
Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together in a glass measuring cup or small mixing bowl; pour it over the salad and toss delicately until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
Now add the goat cheese (or avocado) and toss it in VERY delicately.
Now you could serve your salad immediately or, if time permits, cover and refrigerate it for a few hours (or even up to overnight) to allow flavors to meld.
This salad will keep (and remain just as yummy) for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
- 2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
- 1-1/2 cup raw broccoli, finely chopped
- 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
- ½ cup chopped dried apricots
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- 150g (5.3oz) fresh goat cheese, crumbled
- Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together in a glass measuring cup or small mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Combine all the ingredients for the salad, expect for the goat cheese, in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the dressing and toss delicately until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Add the goat cheese and stir it in very delicately.
- You can serve this salad immediately or cover and refrigerate it for a few hours (or up to overnight) to allow flavors to meld.
- This salad will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.