Cook With Confidence: Strawberry, Quinoa, and Ricotta Salata Salad
Each month, the MyRecipes team gets a half dozen magazines delivered to our desks. I'm sort of a magazine junkie, so this is always a moment of spontaneous joy for me. Flipping through the glossy pages and seeing all the gorgeous recipes our sister publications put out is both exhilarating and inspiring. When I discovered this recipe from Sunset magazine, I knew I would be making it soon. It's the perfect springtime salad!
I love salads. I love quinoa. To me, there's not much better than a colorful combination of greens and grains with some veggies and cheese thrown into the mix. This salad just so happens to feature everyone's favorite springtime berry, too! Whole Foods seemed to be out of a lot of things I needed to make this recipe... But I improvised.
When I'm making a recipe, I tend not to adhere to the measurements given. Why? Because sometimes a girl needs more than just an ounce of cheese on her plate, and sometimes I just really like to live life on the edge. I can never find bunches of watercress like the recipe calls for, so I used this Organic Girl mâche blend and a package of living watercress (meaning its roots are still intact). I also used green onions in place of the spring onion bulb, regular balsamic instead of white, and red quinoa instead of white. Like I said, I had to improvise. The store was also out of ricotta salata, but I'm not mad about it because it led me to buy mizithra, a very hard sheep's milk cheese from Greece. You could also use feta if you can't find either of these cheeses.
Here's what the salad looked like before it was tossed. Those gorgeous green and red hues just scream spring (or Christmas, depending on how you look at it). I chopped and assembled everything while the quinoa was cooking and cooling. You don't want to toss hot quinoa into the salad because it will wilt and become sad and yucky, so just admire your pretty salad and resist the urge.
Here are all the components: Salad, quinoa, dressing, cheese. The dressing, by the way, is phenomenal. I tasted it as I was making it and YUM, I could taste everything, from the strawberries to the shallots to the basil. I chose to toss the cooled quinoa plus a tablespoon of dressing with the salad, but I added the cheese and remaining dressing at the table.
You could totally eat this salad as a meal on its own, but I decided to grill a couple of sirloin steaks to bulk it up a bit. All I can say is... Wow, this was an amazing meal. If you have extra salad dressing, try drizzling it over the steak. In keeping with our "Cook with Confidence" mantra, I would encourage you not to let a list of ingredients prevent you from making a recipe. There is almost always a substitution you can make! I followed this recipe VERY loosely, and it still turned out great.