This weekend we had the pleasure of making food for our friends’ backyard wedding. We brought a large quinoa salad loaded with radishes and cucumbers from the garden, perfectly ripe plums, purslane from the yard (an edible weed), and a toasted pecan dressing… ready to feed the masses. Making quinoa in bulk was not as easy as I would have thought (more on that later) but laced with all of that fresh produce it was sure to taste delicious. Our two huge platters of quinoa salad sat along a table filled with many other tasty homemade foods, including homemade honey wine, a roasted pig, and several batches of gourmet mac n’ cheese (the bride and groom’s special requests). They even had the city’s top barista making individual cups of cold brewed coffee.
What I love about weddings is how they tell you a a story of personalities of the couple. You can quickly see the bride’s style and creativity and the groom’s sense of humor or artistry. The guests view these carefully selected details from flowers to beverages, all the while getting to know the couple more intimately.
This wedding was a beautiful picture of community as their close friends and family all pitched in to make the day a success, from foods brought to the silly toasts that were made. Thankful to play my own small role, I sat my simple quinoa salad down on the table and found a seat in the yard to watch the new couple begin their life together with their self-written vows and dear friends by their side.
When you’re making a salad for a large crowd it’s best to use what you already have on hand so it doesn’t get too expensive. We have radishes and cucumbers in our garden and I used the whole radish including the leaves, as not to waste anything tasty. Purslane is a edible weed that grows like crazy in Utah so I added a few handfuls that I just picked from our garden, which tastes lemon-y. (I bet the wedding party never knew they were eating weeds!) Cucumber flowers are also edible and vibrant for garnishing. And mint is always available in the summer time and makes a great addition to any salad. The few remaining items we picked up at the farmer’s market, making for a fresh and affordable way to feed a crowd. If you happen upon this recipe in a different season just find whatever produce is in season and substitute away!
- 1 and 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups toasted pecans (divided)
- Chile flakes, to taste
- Zest of 4 lemons
- Juice of 4 lemons
- 6 cups quinoa
- 10 cups vegetable broth or water
- 10 radishes, sliced thin
- radish leaves from the radishes above, chopped
- 4 cucumbers, sliced thin
- 8-10 plums, sliced or cubed
- 1 cup ricotta salata (or feta)
- 1/2 cup mint, chopped
- 1 cup purslane, chopped (or sunflower sprouts)
- a few cucumber flowers for garnishing (and eating... they taste just like a cucumber!)
- In a small heavy-bottomed skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, add garlic and salt, and cook gently until the garlic is tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer oil and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Add one-third of the pecans, a pinch of chile flakes, and the lemon zest and juice. Process into a fine paste, then pulse in another third of the pecans, leaving some big chunky pieces for texture. (the remaining pecans are to garnish the salad)
- Divide the quinoa in half (it's much easier to make in smaller quantities... I learned this the hard way). In two separate large pots bring 5 cups of water or vegetable broth in each to a boil. Stir in 3 cups of quinoa into each pot with a tablespoon of oil or butter. Simmer for 20 minutes. Then let sit and cool for 10-15 minutes.
- While quinoa is cooling thinly chop radishes and cucumbers using a mandolin or sharp knife. Slice the plums, then chop the radish leaves, mint, and purslane. Cube or crumble the ricotta salata.
- Once quinoa is cool gentle stir in the vegetables, fruit, cheese and greens (saving some to garnish on top). Pour the dressing over the quinoa and incorporate until the salad is well dressed for a wedding :) Garnish with extra plums, pecans, cucumbers, cucumber flowers, and a few sprigs of mint.