Quinoa Salad with Cilantro Pesto and Edamame

P1010593Cilantro and quinoa were made for each other, and this salad is proof. The vibrant flavor of the pesto enlivens the mild nuttiness of the quinoa making it ideal as an entree or hearty side dish. Edamame (fresh soy beans) bolster the protein content without making the salad heavy, so I am delighted that shelled edamame are so easy to get. I buy them frozen in the supermarket or natural foods store and cook them just a few minutes- it couldn’t be easier.

Because this salad is just as delicious and fresh tasting when made 3 or 4 days in advance, it has become my go-to dish for a picnic or cook-out, allowing me to prep and cook in advance, as I love to do.

Serves 10-12 as a side dish

The quinoa:

2 cups quinoa
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

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Cilantro pesto:

1 large bunch cilantro (3 cups chopped and packed, with stems)
1 large garlic clove
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Generous seasoning freshly ground black pepper

The fixings:

8 ounces frozen edamame (1 2/3 cups)
3 scallions, thinly sliced
a few dashes cayenne pepper

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  1.  Bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa in a strainer under cold running water.
  2. Drop the quinoa into the boiling water and cover the pan. Lower the heat to low-medium and simmer undisturbed until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Scrape the cooked quinoa into a large bowl and let it cool.
  3. To make the cilantro pesto, combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until perfectly smooth. Set aside.
  4. Cook the edamame by dropping them into boiling water for3 minutes. Drain and cool under cold, running water.
  5. Mix the edamame, scallions, and cayenne pepper into the cooled quinoa. Pour on the cilantro pesto and toss well. Chill the salad. Serve cool, not cold for optimum flavor.