I’m certainly no farmer, but based on the outstanding quality of the farmers market finds this year, and from the amazing bounty our garden has produced, it must be a great growing year. There hasn’t been a so-so ear of sweet corn or a flavorless cantaloupe. Every onion, eggplant, cabbage, berry or broccoli head from our local growers has been fantastic and I don’t remember that happening before. Usually the corn seems to vary in sweetness and flavor from week to week and I’ve certainly experienced totally disappointing melons from time to time, but this year it’s all been great!
With our beginner to novice status as gardeners, I’ve got to think it’s more the conditions and not anything we’ve done that has yielded the most beautiful tomatoes I’ve ever grown and the best tasting cucumbers I can remember. Whatever the reason for all these fabulous veggies and fruits, I’m just basking in the happiness it brings to my kitchen.
With September almost here in Minnesota, I know this local fresh food joy will soon start winding down, but I will eke every delicious moment out of the season.
One recipe I’ve been playing with is a corn and tomato salad. I’ve made a version with small balls of mozzarella, then swapped in black beans as the protein, varied the additional veggies, and tonight, a quinoa version, which ended up being our favorite. All were dressed with a spicy harissa-lime vinaigrette, my new favorite!
I toast the quinoa before cooking to bring out a more nuanced flavor. It only takes a few additional minutes and I think the extra time is definitely worth it. You can substitute some of the veggies with what you have on hand or to your preference, but corn and tomatoes are musts this time of year. One version I made included our yummy crisp cucumbers, and it was wonderful when eaten immediately, but the cukes released a lot of water and the leftovers were a bit soggy, so I’ve opted to leave them out here. Enjoy the flavors of summer!
Toasted Quinoa, Sweet Corn and Tomato Salad with Harissa Vinaigrette
1 cup uncooked quinoa (white or red—either works)
1 ½ cup water
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cups cooled cooked sweet corn, about the amount scraped from two ears (if using frozen, thaw first)
1 Anaheim pepper (or small sweet green bell pepper), seeded and thinly sliced into rounds
A couple handfuls cherry tomatoes, preferably more than one color, halved or quartered, depending on size
1/8 cup sliced or torn fresh basil Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Harissa Lime Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Place quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cool water. Drain. Transfer to a 2 qt. saucepan and toast quinoa over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until it starts popping and is fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Add the water and bring it to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover pan and cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl. Let cool for a few minutes and stir in scallions.
Once quinoa/scallion mixture is cooled to room temperature, stir in corn, Anaheim pepper, tomatoes, and most of the basil (reserve a little for garnish). Toss with about half of the vinaigrette, taste, and season with salt and pepper. Add more vinaigrette, if needed, and toss again. Transfer to a platter and serve at room temperature or chilled. Makes about 6 servings.
Harissa Lime Vinaigrette:
2-3 tablespoons honey (or agave for a vegan version)
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon harissa
A pinch of salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Mix together first six ingredients in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until it’s fully incorporated. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, lime or honey, if needed.