I know summer isn’t quite here yet, but, I’m already kind of smitten with summer produce. The spring stars and good gardening mojo aligned perfectly and my summer vegetable gardens just took off like a shot. I’m harvesting cherry tomatoes daily. (Okay, so it’s just one or two per day, but guys, it’s barely mid-June and Ohio Valley home garden tomatoes don’t normally begin ripening until after the 4th of July.) I have green bell peppers (plural) ready to pick (although I’ll let them fully ripen to a bright, sweet red). Poblanos, jalapeños, and serranos are close behind. My first cucumber is ready to pick. My herb garden has been in full glorious greenery for weeks.
It’s hard to give asparagus its due when tomatoes and basil and cucumbers are calling my name from my own yard.
So, in my book, of the summery vegetables and herbs in this colorful salad, only corn is still slightly out of season at this point (shipped up from the South to a Kroger near me — thanks, South!).
I’m so excited for fresh, crispy salads like this one, full of grilled corn and peppers, protein-packed quinoa and fresh, pungent herbs. June and September are my favorite months to grill, and I’ve been taking every advantage of the fantastic weather. (Once sticky tropical August heat arrives, cooking becomes miserable both inside and out, unless I’m grilling something low and slow outside that lets me spend lots of time inside in the air conditioning.)
But, if you’re not quite up for grilling yet, you can roast the vegetables under the broiler. Or — as I plan on doing as summer heat progresses — you can prepare this raw: sweet corn, straight from the cob (uncooked!), chopped peppers, quinoa, and herbs, tossed lightly with olive oil and salt and pepper. Oh my crunchy yum.
And did I mention the citrusy sesame dressing? An unexpected nutty-savory twist, brightened with a splash of orange juice. The dressing is optional but takes mere minutes to pull together, and turns a satisfying vegetable toss into something really special.
- 6 fresh corn cobs husks and silk removed
- 1 poblano pepper
- 1 small red bell pepper
- 3/4 cup cooked quinoa* I used red for the color
- 1 tablespoon minced cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
- 2 teaspoons minced chives
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon neutral-tasting oil grapeseed or light olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil I used toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons agave or honey
- 2 teaspoons orange juice optional but lovely
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Preheat grill to medium-high and prepare for direct grilling. Clean and lightly oil grates.
Place the corn and peppers on the grill. Turn the cobs and peppers frequently to char on all sides. When the pepper skins are mostly black, remove them from the grill and place them in a paper bag or cover them foil to cool (this will make the skins easier to remove). Remove the corn from the grill when the kernels have a light char and let cool.
Remove the skins from the peppers and chop. Use a chef's knife to cut the corn kernels from the cob. Combine the peppers, corn, quinoa, cilantro/parsley, and chives in a bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
To make the dressing, whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste, and add more salt, if needed. Drizzle over the corn and quinoa salad. Serve at room temperature. (Also tastes great after a night in the fridge.)
*This recipe is a great use for leftover quinoa, but if you need to cook some fresh: bring 1 cup of water to a boil and add 1/2 cup rinsed quinoa. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook 15 minutes or until the water has evaporated and the curlicues have separated from the seed. I recommend doubling or tripling the amounts and freezing the extras.