This easy summer salad is both healthy and delicious, mixed with quinoa, blackberries, a tangy balsamic vinaigrette, topped with pumpkin seeds and a vegan cashew ricotta.
There’s just something about a big fresh salad during the summer. I think it’s the fact that so many berries are in season and provide a pop of flavor to the usual salad. Especially right now in mid to late summer when blackberries are in season.
I find summer salads lean towards the sweeter side with addition of berries but also tend to have some tang to balance it out from a vinaigrette. This one does not disappoint. If you have time I highly recommend making your own vinaigrette at home. And by time I mean 3 minutes, because that’s literally all you need to make this one. Just 3 minutes and 3 ingredients!
This is the best summer lunch idea—refreshing and delicious! And takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, making it quick and easy!
How to make
The key components of this salad include:
- Greens (preferably mixed greens or spinach but I only had lettuce)
- Quinoa (for protein)
- Blackberries (or any berry you prefer)
- Pumpkin seeds (for some crunch)
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Cashew Ricotta
You can customize this salad really easy if you don’t have these exact components. You can use strawberries or blueberries in place of blackberries, zucchini in place of cucumber, and walnuts or slivered almonds instead of pumpkin seeds. And you can omit the Cashew Ricotta if you don’t have time to make it but I highly recommend it.
How to Make a Creamy Oil-Free Balsamic Vinaigrette
There’s a trick to making this without a blender or food processor that makes it just as smooth and creamy (no oil needed!). The key is in the order of ingredients and how much you add at once. Too much liquid at first and stirring at the wrong time will cause it to be lumpy. But don’t worry, this trick I’m about to tell you results in smooth dressings every time!
Here’s my fool-proof process:
- Always start with the thickest ingredient. In this case I went with an oil-free hummus for a nice creamy base but you could also use dijon mustard. Measure it out into a small bowl.
- Then add the balsamic vinegar one tablespoon at a time, mixing it in with a spoon until well incorporated and smooth before adding the next.
- Lastly, add your choice of sweetener. I used agave syrup because that’s what I had on hand but maple syrup would work too.
Ta-da! Smooth, lump-free dressing without needing any fancy equipment!
How to serve it
I personally like to serve this salad as the main dish because if you know me, you know I love a big salad for a meal. Especially with the addition of quinoa to make it more filling and provide some extra satiating protein.
As the main dish this makes 4 servings. As a side salad it makes 6-8 servings. This would be great on the side of any pasta or risotto dish like this Kale & Tomato Risotto.
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Summer Blackberry Salad with Cashew Ricotta
- 1 cup quinoa dry, rinsed
- 1.5 cup water
- 8 cups mixed greens
- 1 large cucumber chopped
- 2 cups blackberries
- 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- cashew ricotta I used half this recipe and omitted the nutritional yeast for this salad
Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette:
- 1/4 cup oil-free hummus
- 6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons agave syrup
- Make the cashew ricotta and store in the fridge until needed. Time saver tip: You can soak your cashews while you continue with the rest of the salad then finish making the ricotta at the end and add it to the top of your salads.
- In a skillet over high heat, add the quinoa and water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down heat to a simmer and cover for 10-12 minutes until the quinoa is cooked and water has been absorbed. Set aside and allow to cool.
Easy Balsamic Dressing:
- Meanwhile, make your dressing. In a small bowl measure out the hummus. Then add the balsamic vinegar one tablespoon at a time, mixing it in with a spoon until well incorporated and smooth before adding the next. Lastly, add your choice of sweetener. I used agave syrup because that's what I had on hand but maple syrup would work too.
Assemble Your Salad:
- Divide the greens into bowls. Add the quinoa, chopped cucumber, blackberries, and raw pumpkin seeds, and cashew ricotta. Drizzle the balsamic vinaigrette over top and enjoy!
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