I don’t know about you, but I’m totally not ready for summer to be over. Here in Colorado, the kids have just started school, and though I look forward to returning to a semblance of routine and getting down to some personal and home projects once the craziness of the past season is behind us, I simply refuse to accept that summer is anywhere near to coming to a close.
And so I won’t. At least not for another month or so.
But I can feel it in the air. The dew is heavier in the morning, and there’s a crispness in the air that wasn’t apparent last week.
It’s been a great summer, full of adventure, rest, and Getting Stuff Done. My pride and joy is my replenished jungle of a veggie garden, which had been slowly deteriorating for the past few years. Last season I even took my first year off from the garden since moving into my house in 2008.
With renewed purpose and inspiration, I spent a significant amount of time last spring reviving my soil back to the dynamic vitality it once had, giving it loads of love, attention, and plenty of compost. Our gardens, and the food grown within, are just like our bodies: they thrive when we treat them with the devotion and care they deserve.
When I returned from my family holiday, I was quite literally greeted with the fruits of my labor. Tomato plants falling over from the heaving weight of the fruit. Green beans trailing every which way. Monster corn that had practically doubled in size while I was away. In all my years growing my own food, I’d never seen anything like it!
That’s it behind my purple amaranth. (To give some perspective, I’m about five foot one, and my arbor is at least eight feet high.)
I grow corn mostly for fun—and often for the raccoons, it seems. I don’t eat a whole lot of corn outside the season, but boy do I enjoy it during those brief few weeks that it comes in fresh from my garden, especially from these impossibly giant and mysterious plants. And no, they are not genetically modified. They’re certified organic heirlooms that are loving the perfect combination of rich soil and ideal weather.
To me, corn and peaches are textbook summertime food. Few treats are as universally enjoyed during their peak as these two. And, likely not by chance, they make an excellent pairing.
Just in time for Labor Day and all the potlucks and picnics that ensue, this dish honors the late crops of summer’s bounty. I combined the two quintessential seasonal foods into a heat-stable salad that bursts with bright flavors and crunchy textures. The salad is a perfect blend of sweet peaches and corn, briny feta cheese, tart citrus, and cooling cucumber. The quinoa makes it more filling and is great if you like starch in your meals, though you can certainly make this a grain-free dish and omit it.
Well-received by adults and children alike, this salad is worthy of any backyard BBQ. As an added bonus, it holds-up well under the heat. I find the flavor is even more vibrant when it’s not served totally chilled, so it’s ideal (and certainly less hazardous than a mayonnaise-based salad) for outdoor events where you might not have the opportunity to hold your side dishes on ice.
Cheers to the season, and all of summer’s yumminess!
Quinoa Salad with Peaches, Corn, and Feta
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes, plus chilling time
Note: You may prepare the quinoa and corn the day before and chill them overnight since they must be cooled before adding to the salad.
For the dressing:
¾ cup olive oil or avocado oil
⅓ cup lemon juice (about 3–4 lemons)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the salad:
2 cups quinoa (any color)
3 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
2–3 ears of corn, shucked
2–3 peaches or nectarines, pitted and diced
1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded (if necessary), then diced
1 bell pepper (any color), diced
1 small shallot, minced
1 bunch parsley, chopped
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
- Prepare dressing: combine olive oil, lemon juice, and Dijon in a small bowl. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Place quinoa in a sieve and rinse well under cold running water. Pour into a large pot. Add salt and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Remove lid and fluff with a fork. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely before preparing salad.
- Place the shucked corn in lots of boiling, salted water until just cooked, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, remove from water and cool on a plate. Chill in fridge before preparing salad.
- Place chilled quinoa, corn, peaches or nectarines, cucumber, peppers, shallot, and parsley in a large bowl. Toss with dressing. Add feta and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning. The quinoa will start sucking up the dressing as it sits, so feel free to add more olive oil and lemon juice if it seems like it needs it.
- Serve as a main course salad or as a side dish.
Images from Briana Goodall.