I don't know about you, but I love grain salads. They tend to be filling, nicely balanced, and tasty meals, all contained in one bowl. And they usually keep well for leftovers and pack well for taking lunch to the office, so they're a great option if you're a one- or two-person household.
This salad has all the traits I love in a grain salad. You start with quinoa, and add in some roasted corn and poblano for sweetness and a bit of heat. Then toss in some cilantro for freshness and a pop of green, a brightly spiced dressing to coat everything in its tasty goodness, and finish off with a sprinkling of salty feta and cubes of creamy avocado.
Also, this is what charred poblano skin looks like if you get up close and personal with it.
Charred Corn and Poblano Quinoa Salad
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
Yield: 6-8 servings as a side, or 3-4 servings as a main
1 cup quinoa
1 poblano pepper
2 cups frozen corn
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup feta or cotija cheese
2 avocados, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil (replace 1 Tbsp. with water for a lower-fat option)
Juice from two limes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander (optional)
Salt and pepper
Cook quinoa according to package directions, except use only 1-1/2 cups water and add a pinch of salt. When it's cooked, remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool.
Roast the poblano pepper: If you have a gas stove, turn a burner on high. Using metal tongs, hold the pepper over the open flame, turning and moving pretty often, until the skin is evenly charred. If you don't have a gas stove, roast it on a grill or in the oven. Place poblano in a paper or plastic bag and seal. Let it steam for 10 minutes to loosen the skin. Then remove to a cutting board and use a knife to scrape off the charred skin. Then cut open the poblano and remove the seeds (or leave them in if you want your salad to be spicy). Chop the poblano. Set aside to cool.
Roast the corn: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn (straight from the freezer is just fine), and spread the kernels out in the skillet. Now, let them cook for a few minutes without touching them so a good char can develop. Then give them a good stir, and let them cook for a few more minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. (Alternatively, if you don't feel like mincing the garlic and 1 Tbsp. cilantro, give all the dressing ingredients a whir in a small blender or food processor.) To the bowl, add the cooled quinoa, poblano, and corn; toss. Add the 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, feta, and avocados, and toss again. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- If you're planning to save this for later, hold off on the avocado until you're ready to serve.
- If you have a grill, roast the poblano and corn on that! Use two ears of corn instead of two cups frozen kernels.
- I've made this a couple times, and one time got lazy and left the cilantro out of the dressing, but it was noticeably better when I didn't cut that corner. I've also eaten it both with and without the avocado, and while it's definitely better with, it's also good without.
- I almost added cherry or grape tomatoes to this salad but am really glad I didn't. The flavors are so well-balanced, I think the tomatoes could have easily taken over.