I am pretty sure this salad would shout, "Hello, spring!" if it could talk. It is so, so vibrant in color and in taste. It is a lot of green with just a little pink from the pickled onions, and zingy from the red onions, fresh herbs, the lemon juice and the lemon zest. It is a wonderful make-ahead salad, especially if you be sure to slice the avocado either right before serving, or drizzle with a little lemon juice so it does not oxidize. While the avocado provides a wonderful creamy texture and a little extra filling, healthy fat, feel free to leave it out if you are unable to find ripe ones or if you are allergic, like an unlucky friend of mine. It will still be delicious and bright.
I chose quinoa for this for a few reasons. I often have it on hand, it cooks fairly quickly, and it provides a powerful nutrient boost. It is loaded with protein, amino acids, and vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, calcium, and magnesium which are important for nerve and muscle function and bone strength. I love the crunch of the sunflower seeds in this, and they give a boost of Vitamin E, an important antioxidant. Sunflower seeds also remind me of sunny days, evoking more of the warm weather to come.
When you think of edamame, you may think of the little green pods sprinkled with coarse salt and served at so many Japanese restaurants. Luckily, you do not have to shell each pod individually to get to the soybeans nestled inside. You can now find already shelled edamame in the freezer section of many supermarkets, which makes things incredibly convenient for recipes like this. They have a more substantial toothsome quality compared to peas and a clean green flavor that is most welcome here. Their mild flavor also allows the basil, mint, and lemon to really shine through.
Quinoa and Edamame Salad with Basil, Mint, and Lemon
1 c. quinoa
1 1/2 c. water
1 c. frozen shelled edamame
1/4 c. finely chopped pickled red onions, look here for the recipe
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 t. Dijon mustard
3/4 t. salt
1/2 cucumber, washed, unpeeled and diced into 1-cm cubes
1 c. loosely packed fresh basil in chiffonade
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh mint
3 T. sunflower seeds, raw or already roasted and salted
1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
Prepare the quinoa. Combine 1 cup quinoa and 1 1/2 cups water in a pot. Bring to boil, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Cook for 25 minutes on low. Allow to rest, covered for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, cook the edamame. Combine the frozen edamame and enough water to cover by an inch in a small pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and cook edamame for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain and set aside.
Prepare the rest of the ingredients. If you are using raw sunflower seeds, toast the sunflower seeds. Heat 1/2 teaspoon olive oil or coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the sunflower seeds. Toast for 5-7 minutes, stirring often or until sunflower seeds are toasted. Remove and allow to cool on a paper towel. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon of salt while still warm.
When the quinoa has finished, add the quinoa to a large bowl. Add the edamame, pickled onions, lemon juice, lemon zest, extra-virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, and salt. Mix to combine. Toss in the basil and mint. To serve, sprinkle each serving with the toasted sunflower seeds and sliced avocado. Enjoy! Serves 3-4 as a main dish or 6-8 as a side dish.