I’m writing this post at my desk, which overlooks a barren square of backyard that is partitioned from the neighbors’ equally yellow yards with chain-link fence. I have high hopes for this ugly backyard of mine. The grass is already showing little twinges of fresh green growth, which is enough for me to start fantasizing about a little garden overflowing with herbs and cherry tomatoes. And if my sneezes are any indication, those tall trees overhead will soon come back to life.
I’m really looking forward to sipping wine under a canopy of green leaves this summer. Maybe I’ll get a grill and some twinkle lights and invite my friends over for dinner. Yes, I think I’ll do that.
I’m getting ahead of myself. My world hasn’t turned green yet and I’m already daydreaming about juicy peaches and long summer nights. Spring weather has finally arrived and summer’s heat will be here soon enough. I’ve been making up for the lack of green in my surroundings by filling up on green salads lately.
This one is my latest favorite. It’s an explosion of spring textures, flavors and colors, all tossed in my standard zippy lemon dressing. In fact, orange carrots and hot pink radishes are so bright and spring-y that this salad almost hurts my eyes to look at. The garlicky quinoa and herbed avocado round it up to a full, satisfying meal.
This salad has several components. I think it would pack pretty well for lunch, but you’ll want to keep the dressing away from the arugula until you’re ready to serve (or you could switch to chopped kale, which can sit in dressing for a while without deteriorating). The avocado blend has enough citrus juice in it to keep it from getting too brown too quickly.
To save time, you can make the quinoa beforehand. I like to cook extra quinoa so I can have leftovers for future salads. You’ll end up with extra vinaigrette, too. If you’re short on time, I suppose you could just slice the avocado and toss in the herbs, but it’s nice to mix the guacamole-like blend into the rest of the salad for some creaminess.
I was torn on whether to write this recipe to yield two salads or four. I decided to leave it at two, but I wanted to note that the recipe will double easily. For reference, three tablespoons times two is about 1/3 cup. No need to double the dressing ingredients, as the amounts listed should yield plenty for four salads.
- ½ cup quinoa, rinsed under running water in a fine mesh colander
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 4 cups arugula
- 2 radishes, sliced into super thin strips or rounds
- 3 carrots, peeled and then sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
- ¼ bulb fennel (optional), cored and sliced super thin
- 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- 3 tablespoons crumbled feta (omit for vegan salad)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 lemon (preferably organic), zested and juiced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon honey or agave nectar
- Dash sea salt
- Lots of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large avocado, diced
- 1 small lime or lemon, juiced
- 3 packed tablespoons fresh herbs, like mint and cilantro, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- To cook the quinoa: In a saucepan, combine the rinsed quinoa and 1 cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, remove the pot from heat and let it rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Use a fork to fluff up the quinoa and mix in the garlic and olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt.
- To toast the sunflower seeds: Pour the seeds into a small pan. Heat the seeds over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are fragrant and turning golden on the edges. Remove from heat.
- To make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, mustard and honey (or agave nectar) until emulsified. Season with sea salt and black pepper, to taste.
- To prepare the avocado: In a small bowl, combine the chunks of avocado, lemon or lime juice, chopped fresh herbs, coriander and sea salt. Mash with a fork until the mixture is blended and no longer chunky.
- Assemble the salads: Divide the arugula and quinoa between two large salad bowls. Drizzle lightly with vinaigrette (you will have leftover vinaigrette) and toss to coat. Divide the radishes, carrots and fennel between the two bowls. Top with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds and feta cheese. Add a big ol' dollop of herbed avocado. Serve!
Make it vegan:Use agave nectar instead of honey and skip the feta cheese.
Storage suggestions: Store leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator, covered. It should keep for about a week. If you have leftover avocado, press plastic wrap against the avocado to help keep it fresh. It's best eaten within a couple of days—use it as a dip for vegetables or chips, spread it on toast or serve it with quesadillas.