Keeping this quinoa salad – the ultimate summer salad – a dirty little secret.
I’ve eaten it no less than 10 times since sweet corn and strawberries made their debut at my local farmers’ market a few weeks ago. Every time I extract the salad from my lunch tote at work, I’m nearly crushed by excitement. I can barely stand to eat it with a fork – I want to shovel it up with a giant spoon, my hands, my mouth to ensure every bite contains each glorious, summer-saturated component.
I live in fear that someone will walk into my office at the precise moment that I’m using my sticky, quinoa-coated fingers to set a stray toasted almond sliver or a cube of sautéed tofu onto my fork to complete that all-inclusive, perfect bite. Our eyes will meet from across the paper-cluttered room. I’ll try to stammer out an explanation as to why I’m eating my lunch with my fingers.
But it will be too late. They’ll already be backing away – not wanting to know – not wanting to see what I do when I’m behind my not-so closed office doors.
“It’s the salad!” I’ll finally scream, once they are safely down the hall. “It’s just too good! You’d do it too!”
This is what I tell myself.
That any reasonable person would lose all decorum when confronted with this mix of sweet strawberries, corn, basil, arugula, red onion, and tofu, slivered almonds, quinoa, and a pitch perfect balsamic dressing. That any reasonable person would abandon their utensils to turn lunch into a competitive eating sport.
Victory over this salad will be mine. All summer long. Regardless of the judgment doled out from my co-workers eyes.
Strawberry, Corn, Basil Quinoa Salad with Sautéed Tofu
Note: You may be tempted to omit the tofu, but that would be a grave mistake. The sautéed cubes of extra-firm tofu add a satisfying heft to this salad without imparting a distracting flavor to take away from the true stars of the show – the strawberries, corn and basil. The texture of the tofu is what is key here, as are the crunchy almonds and delicate kernels of quinoa that bring everything together into one hot (well, actually cold) delicious mess.
¾ cup dry quinoa, cooked in 1 ½ cups water and then cooled to room temperature
1/3 cup red onion, minced
1 carton fresh strawberries, stems removed, chopped
2 ears fresh white or yellow corn, husked
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, cubed
2 cups arugula, chopped
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons olive oil
Juice from half a lemon
Combine dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Whisk together until well-combined. Taste – if tart, add extra Dijon or honey to balance out the vinegar.
Soak red onion in small bowl of cold water for 15-20 minutes (this will help reduce some of that red onion bite). Drain and set aside.
While onion is soaking, bring enough water to cover the two ears of corn (roughly 3 inches) to boil in a large pot with a lid. Once boiling, add the corn, cover with the lid, and cook 3-5 minutes or until the corn is just tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water so it doesn’t continue cooking. Using a chef’s knife, cut the corn kernels off the ear.
Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the teaspoon of olive oil and swirl it to coat the base of the pan. Add the tofu, reduce the heat to medium, and sauté until the tofu is golden on all sides. Remove from the pan.
Combine quinoa, red onion, corn, and tofu, and toss with the balsamic dressing. Refrigerate until cool before proceeding.
Once chilled, stir in the strawberries, arugula, basil, and almonds. Serve immediately. With or without utensils.