Strawberry Quinoa Salad with Hazelnut Mint Vinaigrette
Strawberry season in the Northwest, especially the North Sound is such an exciting time. It is the beginning of the berry season with blueberries, raspberries, and tayberries not far behind. It is one of the first fresh offerings at Farmers Markets. Breakfast just got a lot more interesting. Of course, there are all those wonderful berry shortcakes, crumble, crisps, pies, and more. But this refreshing, entrée salad is wonderful. Life is good!
This year I am trying to cut down on sugar intake, so I started to think of a savory strawberry recipe. Spinach is just now showing up at Farmers Markets too. There are many recipes for strawberry and spinach salads. But I wanted this one to be an entrée salad, so I decided to add quinoa for a protein boost. My deck herb pots are brimming over. Time to trim them back, hence I have created a mint-based vinaigrette.
To give the salad some crunch, I added some roasted hazelnuts. Who doesn’t like some salad texture? All these wonderful flavors and textures come together at the peak of the season. This recipe just may become a seasonal favorite!
Scroll to the bottom for a printable recipe.
4 entrée servings
¼ cup tightly packed fresh mint, washed, dried
2 teaspoons shallots, minced
2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup hazelnut oil or fruity extra virgin olive oil
½ cup skinned hazelnuts (see steps 1 & 2 on how to skin hazelnuts)
1 cup white quinoa
2 cups filtered water
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 cups sliced strawberries, hulled, cut into ¼ inch slices
3 cups fresh spinach, washed at least 3 times, torn into bite-sized pieces
In a food processor or blender, pulse the mint, shallots, vinegar, and oil until smooth. Taste, Think, Transform with sea salt and/or black pepper.
If your hazelnuts are raw rather than dry roasted, follow this step to remove the bitter hazelnut skins. Boil the hazelnuts in two cups water with three tablespoons of baking soda in a deep saucepan for three to four minutes. (Lower heat if they begin to boil over the top of the pan). Drain and thoroughly rinse the nuts. Discard the skins.
Preheat the oven to 275°F. Place the hazelnuts in a baking pan in a single layer. Place in the oven and lightly toast, about fifteen to twenty minutes. (The nuts will continue to toast several minutes after removing from the oven). Cool and roughly chop.
Rinse and drain quinoa thoroughly in cold water. In a saucepan bring the quinoa, filtered water, and salt to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until all the water is absorbed about ten to fifteen minutes. Fluff with a fork. Cool completely.
Just before serving toss the quinoa, strawberries, spinach, and vinaigrette. Place on a platter or individual plates. Top with chopped hazelnuts.
If using dry roasted hazelnuts skip steps one and two of the Salad Base. Spinach grows in sandy soil. It is no fun biting into a sandy piece of spinach so wash thoroughly: Wash and spin dry the spinach at least three times or until no sand remains in the washing water.