When I was living in DC, I ate some form of a quinoa salad for lunch nearly every single day. It was a perfect response to the heat and humidity: something light, yet filling and nutritious. Sometimes I’d add beans, sometimes not; sometimes it was hemp or flax oil and on other days I preferred an avocado dressing. In any case, the basic combination of quinoa, veggies, and greens was always the same. This quinoa BLT salad with shiitake bacon is my latest addition to the quinoa lunch salad rotation, and it’s a delicious addition at that.
When I first pulled the shiitake bacon that makes this recipe special out of the oven, Steven was incredulous: it seemed hard for him to imagine me savoring anything that resembled or tasted like bacon. Truth be told, bacon was a favorite of mine prior to giving up meat when I was little, and BLT sandwiches were my favorite use for it. I’ve tried plenty of vegan imaginings of bacon, including my coconut bacon and eggplant bacon. Sometimes I even feel that throwing a handful of salty dulse into a salad creates that salty effect–though I know it’s a stretch to compare bacon and seaweed.
Shiitake bacon may be my new favorite approach to plant-based bacon. I love the slightly chewy texture that the mushrooms take on as they’re roasted, low and slow. And the flavor is everything it should be: smoky, salty, and just a tiny bit sweet.
The other standout feature of this salad: a creamy avocado dressing. Juicy tomatoes (which you can add fresh, or oven roast for more concentrated flavor). And, of course, there’s the quinoa, which adds plenty of texture and substance to the dish. Altogether, it’s a flavorful and satisfying summer lunch: a little fancier than what I tend to make on an everyday basis, but all the more rewarding for demanding a little extra time.
Little things can make such a big difference in salads. Here, the roasted mushrooms add an intensity of flavor that does wonders for the dish. I love the salad, and I hope you will, too.
On that note, I’m wrapping up my second-to-last week of summer class. It has flown by, and now I have only one exam and one assignment to work through before getting a true break from school in July and August. I can’t wait to truly immerse myself in work and recipe testing–and to nurturing my whole life, too, including time with Steven. See you for weekend reading!