Summer Salad Series II: Quinoa strawberry salad with balsamic vinaigrette

Before I start, may I just say that I CANNOT spell “vinaigrette” to save my life.  I knew I was bad at spelling, but even I am impressed by my ability to spell the damn word wrong every single time.  Once again spell checker, you are a constant source of sanity.

BREAKING: The rumours surrounding the apparent deliciousness of balsamic vinegar and strawberries are true.  Completely, 100% true.

The other night was the first time I tried this fantastic blend, the likes of which can only be trumped by the combination of chocolate and strawberries.

But that wouldn’t be any good on a salad, now would it?

As you can tell from the blog title, this is the second salad in my new Summer Salad Series (alliterations are truly an underappreciated literary device).

A beautiful picture I saw on Tastespotting last week was what inspired the creation of this salad.  The blog Salad Pride features one new delicious looking salad a day, and will surely be the victim of much idea borrowing as the summer months progress.

Since normal couscous and I have a love-hate relationship (translation: to my dismay my couscous somehow always comes out resembling mashed potatoes), I decided to try out something new: Israeli couscous.

When I saw it in the Bulk Barn, I was intrigued.  It looked like the tiny noodles you used to get in East Side Mario’s Italian wedding soup.  Heck, maybe it was one in the same.

Turns out I didn’t love this couscous.  It had a strange sort of taste to it, and got clumpy when brought as leftovers the next day.  In the future I’ll probably stick to quinoa or just normal couscous, which I will hopefully develop some sort of ability to make.

On top of the couscous I, of course, had to add my favourite food of summer 2011: quinoa.  You can’t tell me I’m not getting my protein intake!  Topping it all off were freshly quartered strawberries, whose soft crunch and succulent juices provided the sweet contrast that only berries can offer.

All of this was piled on top of a bed of fresh baby arugula – a curiously spicy and tasty salad green.  I still have loads of it left, so watch for it making an appearance in upcoming dishes (arugula: I’ll be here till Wednesday!).

Also, I accidentally threw out the recipe I created, so the one you see below the jump is as accurate a rendition as I can remember… Apologies, friends.

Recipe: Quinoa strawberry salad with balsamic vinaigrette
- 5 cups baby arugula
– 1 cup Israeli couscous
– ½ cup quinoa
– 1 ½ cup strawberries, quartered
– ¼ cup fresh chives, chopped
– 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Balsamic vinaigrette
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
– 4 tbsp olive oil
– salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium pot, bring 1 ½ cups salted water to a boil.  Add the Israeli couscous, bring to a simmer and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain any remaining water.  Let cool.

In another pot, add the quinoa to 1 cup of boiling water.  Bring to a simmer and let cook until no water remains, about 25 minutes.  Let cool.

Meanwhile, whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive boil and salt and pepper.

In a large salad bowl, combine baby arugula, couscous, quinoa and strawberries.  Toss with vinaigrette to coat.  Garnish with chives and Parmesan cheese when serving.

Makes 2 servings.

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