I write to you from Tucson, Arizona, where it is now “only” 99 degrees Fahrenheit outside, cooling down from what was likely a balmy high of 104. I’m here visiting family and taking in the general gestalt of the desert, where I lived for 18 years as a kid, but somehow appreciate so much more now. You don’t get sunsets and golden light like here anywhere else. And after marathoning Breaking Bad for the last few weeks (I know I’m late to the party, but yeah, it’s good), the desert seems even more cinematic, driving down the highway at 80 miles an hour with nothing but mountains, dust, and cacti on either side.
In any case, summer is felt loud and clear around these parts, and in summer I love these kinds of salads that can be a light dinner, a whole dinner, a lunch, an appetizer… and be as delicious cold as it is warm. This particular quinoa salad has a fantastic flavor, probably owing a lot to the fresh flavors of the corn, lemon and mint that play perfectly off the deep background flavor of butter and a hint of honey. And the fresh mint leaves throughout make the whole thing come together and sing. I devoured this warm for dinner, then ate it the next two days for work lunches, just cold out of the fridge. I probably don’t have to tell you that it would be a great potluck meal or side dish to bring too, and very easy to make a day ahead.
I hope everyone out there (at least those of you in the Northern hemisphere) are having a lovely summer so far, full of fresh foods and longer relaxing days. Do you have an all-time favorite summer salad?
- 4 ears corn, shucked
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups quinoa (about 10 oz)
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- In a wide stockpot, add corn and cover with water until fully submerged. Bring to a boil, covered. Turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, for about 5 minutes. Remove corn with tongs and place on a cutting board, allowing it to cool until it can be touched. When cool, cut the kernels off the cob to remove them completely.
- While waiting for corn to boil, make the sauce. Combine lemon zest and juice, butter, honey, salt and pepper in a big bowl, whisking completely.
- To cook quinoa, rinse it in cold water 3 times, pouring off extra water after each wash or draining in a fine mesh sieve. Cook in a medium pot or saucepan of boiling water (uncovered) until the quinoa is tender and outer ring of quinoa spirals away from the center. This takes about 15 minutes for my quinoa. Feel free to sample it to test for doneness. When done, drain it in a fine mesh sieve and allow to come to room temperature.
- Mix together quinoa and dressing gently, and then toss with the corn, chopped scallions, chopped mint, and salt and pepper. Serve cold, room temperature, or hot - all are great!
Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine Aug 2006