Beautiful sunny spring days are here, graduation parties are here, Memorial Day is just around the corner, picnics, pot lucks, backyard BBQ’s, pool parties, all the fun filled outdoor parties are to be had – friends, you need an easy salad to bring to those parties. This Strawberry Basil Quinoa Salad is just the one! Also, can I just mention how much I LOVE spring and summer and all of those parties, it’s THE BEST!
Besides I am always looking for easy dishes to bring to these kinds of parties that can be made ahead of time, that are served cold, and that can survive an hour long car ride. Paul’s family and a lot of our friends live an hour away from us, which means a lot of day trips or weekend trips to these parties. The food I bring to contribute needs to be portable, served cold, and EASY – because this food blogging girl ain’t got no time for making a ton of extra food, she’s got a food blog to run! (<– BTW I NEVER say ain’t – gross – but it felt necessary for some reason!)
Okay, I don’t want to mislead you here, even though I JUST got done talking bout how I need more dishes like this one that can be made ahead of time and survive an hour car ride. The truth is that this salad can MOSTLY be made ahead of time – as in the strawberries, basil, and toasted almonds are best added in just before serving. The quinoa, dressing, red bell pepper, and mozzarella cheese can all be tossed together up to a day ahead of time.
To be honest with you this Strawberry Basil Quinoa salad has been sitting in my fridge for 3 days and it’s still pretty dang good! Yes, the strawberries have gotten a little mushy and the basil a little wilted BUT I think it would be just fine if you made it 1 to 2 hours in advance. However, if you are bringing this salad to a fancy event where it needs to look extra pretty like a baby shower or something, then when I would suggest slicing and adding the strawberries and basil just before everyone is about to eat. For a pool party or a picnic? Go ahead, make it a few hours in advance. Trust me, it will not disappoint!
Strawberry Basil Quinoa salad is super duper easy to make! Cook up some quinoa (15 minutes) – allow it to cool. Toast up some almonds. Whip up a balsamic vinaigrette dressing, slice some strawberries, chop a red bell pepper and basil, throw in some mini mozzarella cheese balls and stir everything together! 30 minutes and you’re done (It could even be less than 30 minutes if you cook your quinoa ahead of time!) EASY, healthy, tastes-like-summer-in-a-bowl salads FTW!
The other thing I LOVE about Strawberry Basil Quinoa Salad is how summer-y it is. Wait, did I already mention that?! The strawberry and basil combo is unique but once you try it you will always want strawberry and basil to be together – FOREVER! The red pepper adds crunch while the creamy Mozzarella balls add a savory flavor. The fruitiness/tartness of the balsamic vinegar gives the entire salad a little pop. All of this is amazingness is topped with some toasted almonds for more crunchy texture. Strawberry Basil Quinoa Salad is a great mix of sweet and savory – Paul says it’s pretty much dessert. There is no chocolate so I disagree with that statement!
- ¾ cup quinoa
- ½ cup almonds
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 to 3 tablespoons honey
- salt and pepper to taste
- 16 ounces strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 8 ounces pearl mozzarella balls (Could sub goat cheese or feta for a more savory flavor
- ¼ to ½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn or julienned
- Cook quinoa: To a small sauce pot add the quinoa and 1½ cups filtered water. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Allow to cool completely while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Toast Almonds: While the quinoa is cooking heat a small skillet on medium low heat. Add the almonds and stir frequently for until they are toasted, about 3 to 5 minutes. You will know they are done once they are slightly browned and you can smell them. Be careful not to let them burn. Allow them to cool complexity and give them a rough chop, set aside.
- Make the dressing: In a large mixing bowl whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust as needed.
- Make the salad: Add the completely cooled quinoa to the mixing bowl with the dressing. Stir to mix the dressing into the quinoa. Add the sliced strawberries, bell pepper, basil, and cheese. Stir gently to combine.
- Serve: Just before serving the salad top it with the toasted almonds. This salad is best when enjoyed fresh but it will keep in the fridge for up to 2 ish days. The strawberries and basil are what start to go bad first if you want to make this salad ahead of time I suggest making the everything and leave out the strawberries, basil, and almonds until your are ready to serve it.