Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summer Squash and Red Quinoa Salad with Walnuts

Sometimes two of the defining characteristics of my personality will be at odds with each other - my love of a good deal, and my passion for fancy food and ingredients. This recipe, along with being healthy, is the perfect reconciliation of those often conflicting traits. Zucchini and summer squash are abundant and inexpensive this time of year, but I get to dress it up with excellent Sherry vinegar and top-notch Parmesan, turning an economical blank canvas vegetable into a vibrantly flavored dish. An abundance of fresh herbs gives a burst of freshness, walnuts lend richness and crunch, lemon juice and Sherry vinegar a subtle piquant accent, with a bed of quinoa providing enough heft to make this into a light, but satisfying, meal. Although I went with the original combination of quinoa and walnuts, there are myriad other combinations of grains (barley, rice, etc.) and seeds or nuts (almonds, pecans, pepitas, etc.) that would make wonderful substitutions. Different herbs and vinegars allow you to further personalize this recipe to your personal taste and what's currently available, the perfect kind of recipe for using up odds and ends in the pantry and fridge or creating a dish to honor any one of these ingredients. Whether you follow this to the letter or use it as a template, this recipe can surely find a way to satisfying your culinary needs in these last summer days.

Summer Squash and Red Quinoa Salad with Walnuts
adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2012

1 cup red or other quinoa, rinsed in a fine-mesh sieve, drained
2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more for seasoning
1 pound assorted summer squash
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan plus 1/4 cup shaved with a peeler
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions

2. Cut squash into 1/8"-thick slices, some lengthwise and some crosswise. Transfer to a large bowl, season with 2 teaspoons salt, and toss to coat. Let sit until slightly wilted, about 15 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain well. Pat dry with paper towels.

3. Whisk grated Parmesan, zest, juice, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

4. Combine squash, quinoa, parsley, walnuts, and basil in a large bowl. Pour dressing over; toss to coat. Garnish with shaved Parmesan.

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