summer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messpin it!

This post is sponsored by BC Blueberries.

for a summer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messpin it!summer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messpin it!for a summer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messpin it!summer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messpin it!
Over in my neck of the woods, we’re kind of racing to the finish line to get through this week. My man and I have both been going a little crazy with our respective work lately, pulling and stretching into new territories all the while. Growth is awesome, but complicating your existence by thinking about work all the time probably isn’t. It tends to spill over into less virtuous lifestyle decisions too.

We attended a beautiful and fun wedding over the weekend, and during a quiet moment outside in the summery air, we both realized that we had been going a little too hard with some stuff that doesn’t necessarily keep us sparkling, ya know?

Once we push just a couple more things off our plate, we’re golden. I’ve bookmarked a few nourishing recipes that I plan to make at a very leisurely pace. I’m packing my beach bag with plenty of refreshment and reading material for some sunny days (in my beautiful avocado tote that McKel sent me yay! Love that gal). And I’m back on that coffee train (so weak haha), so cold brew will ABOUND (really feeling this one lately). Low key summer living with our dog in tow—kind of impossible to imagine anything better if you’re into simple living.

I think everyone needs a crowd-pleasing potluck/beach picnic contribution when summertime comes around. I’m hoping I can solve that for a few people with this post. For me, making this kind of dish usually means a grain salad with lots of fresh vegetables, herbs, a protein-packed element, a simple dressing, and one or two components that are interesting/unexpected. For this particular salad, I stir in a hearty amount of juicy highbush blueberries (the big ones) and some totally vegan, almond-based “feta” style cheese to lure my people in. It’s a winner for real, babes!

We’re in peak strawberry season in Ontario right now, and usually when that happens, I start craving other berries like whoa. Lucky enough for me, BC blueberries are getting into their stride real soon (now until August), and they’re distributed all throughout Canada. I really hope you try this recipe with its salty, nutty, savoury, sweet, and juicy elements. If you’d like a little more blueberry inspiration, there’s plenty on the BC Blueberries website.

summer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messpin it!summer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messpin it!summer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messpin it!summer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messpin it!summer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messpin it!
Feta method adapted from The Vegetarian Times

Print the recipe here!
NOTES: If you can’t find garlic scapes where you live right now, feel free to substitute chopped green onions, thinly sliced shallots or even a ½ cup of thin red onion slices. Also, it goes without saying that if you eat dairy, just use about 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (sheep, goat etc).

FETA INGREDIENTS (makes extra):
1 cup slivered almonds, soaked for at least 1 hour
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon mellow/light miso
1/3 cup filtered water, plus extra if needed

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil or grapeseed oil
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup (uncooked/raw) whole grain rice of your choice (I used this one)
2 cobs of corn, husks removed
3-4 garlic scapes, tough parts of the stem removed
1 ripe, but firm, peach/nectarine, pitted and diced
1 cup blueberries
2 sprigs basil, leaves chopped (I used half purple basil and half Thai, but anything will work!)
2 sprigs mint, leaves chopped

Make the feta. Drain the almonds and transfer them to an upright blender. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, miso, salt, and water to the blender as well. Whizz this mixture on high until completely smooth and creamy.

Scrape the almond cream mixture into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the cream set up in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Retrieve the almond cream and scrape it out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. With a spatula, spread the cream out into a circle, about a ½ inch thick. Slide the tray into the oven and bake until lightly firm on the top, about 35 minutes. The colour will also appear a shade or two darker on the top. Transfer the baked “feta” to the refrigerator and let it set up while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Make the dressing. Combine the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, oil, salt, and pepper in a sealable jar. Close the lid tight and shake vigorously to combine. Set aside.

Cook rice according to package directions. Transfer warm rice to a large bowl and pour half of the dressing over top. Toss to combine.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and place the corn cobs and garlic scapes in the pan. Cook vegetables, turning over frequently, until charred on all sides and lightly softened. Transfer vegetables to a cutting board.

Cut the kernels off of the corn cobs and cut the scapes into 1-inch pieces. Add corn and scapes to the bowl with the rice. Add the diced peach, blueberries, basil, mint, and remaining dressing to the bowl, and toss to combine. Check the salad for seasoning at this point and adjust if necessary.

Retrieve the “feta” from the refrigerator. Using a spoon, make little scoops of the “feta” for a crumbled appearance. It should be similar to the texture of goat cheese. Use about half of the “feta” to top the salad.

Serve summer picnic salad immediately or place in a sealed container to keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

*This post was created in partnership with BC Blueberries. All opinions/endorsements are my own. Thanks for supporting!

  • Lindsey30/06/2016 - 7:35 am

    That vegan feta! So good :) Loving all the flavors and colors going on in this summer salad, Laura! Wishing you both more moments of ease and brightness! xoReplyCancel

  • Sarah | Well and Full30/06/2016 - 9:26 am

    I’m glad you decided to get some things off your plate and simplify a little!! Sometimes I definitely feel that “I need to do everything at once” feeling and it’s easy to pile on a bunch of projects that can get overwhelming in a hurry. This post is the encouragement I need to give myself a little break :)ReplyCancel

  • Annie30/06/2016 - 9:37 am

    This is so great! Feta has been a strangely big craving of mine since going vegan (never really loved it before though…go figure). Thanks for sharing, cannot wait to try this out!
    xx Annie

  • Alexandra30/06/2016 - 10:18 am

    Charred corn is THE best! It’s such a great summer flavor. As always, these photos are on point :)

    Hope you’re feeling less stressed soon!ReplyCancel

  • Jessie | Kitschen Cat30/06/2016 - 11:11 am

    Wow, this is so incredibly gorgeous. I’m totally new to the concept of the vegan feta and it’s intriguing me! :)ReplyCancel

  • Sherrie30/06/2016 - 3:29 pm

    I’m really going crazy over this vegan feta Laura! And all of this beauty in a bowl too. I hope more breath and lightness enters your life all summer long. All the love, xx!ReplyCancel

  • Jessie Snyder30/06/2016 - 7:09 pm

    This is summer, Laura, you nailed it! Absolutely stunning, and with blueberries and corn together – I think you are onto something! I need to take a crack at this almond feta, I loved your snap about it ;) “its salty” – PERFECT. And a big ole fist pump for cutting things out of life that keep you from sparkling. Life is too fleeting to not. Hope you two have a chill week + weekend, girl. Hugs!ReplyCancel

  • TUULIA01/07/2016 - 5:31 am

    High fives for less stress and more chill time, I plan on giving myself more time off too. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed when your work is also a lifestyle / hobby, but taking some time off and creating boundaries make some magic too :) And yes, that feta sounds amazing! As does the salad, I love berries in a salad in the summertime. xo!ReplyCancel

  • […] friends this fourth of July, I’d choose Sherrie’s eggplant sliders, Laura’s summer picnic salad, and Izy’s mango […]ReplyCancel

  • Cassie02/07/2016 - 2:14 pm

    Looks soooooo beautiful! I’ve really been wanting to make the most out of my weekends and going wherever the feeling takes me!ReplyCancel

  • robyn holland | sweetish.co02/07/2016 - 4:35 pm

    Love the pairing of charred corn and blueberries here. And that vegan feta sounds amaze, but way too much effort for this dairy eating girl, LOL – so real feta it is! Can’t wait to try this. You are brilliant. xoReplyCancel

  • July Produce Guide03/07/2016 - 5:00 am

    […] Summer Picnic Salad with Blueberries & Vegan “Feta” (from The First Mess) […]ReplyCancel

  • […] This is the only salad I need this summer. That vegan feta!! […]ReplyCancel

  • danielle | rooting the sun03/07/2016 - 12:31 pm

    such a beautiful inclusion of garlic scapes, laura! i’m really in love with this salad. not to mention blueberries and corn sounds a tantalizing combination. i love how fearless you are with vegetarian food, you’re a huge inspiration daily. happy holiday xoReplyCancel

  • Dana04/07/2016 - 2:51 am

    Beautiful recipe! The vegan feta was delicious, but came out more like a smooth cream cheese for me than a crumbly feta. Could it be a matter of cooking it longer or at a higher temp? Any other suggestions?ReplyCancel

    • Laura04/07/2016 - 7:35 am

      Hi Dana,
      It is naturally more on the creamy side–sorta like soft goat cheese. I think if you wanted to try and get it more crumbly, longer baking and chilling time might be necessary. Or even some sort of overnight strain with multiple layers of cheese cloth could help.

      • Dana06/07/2016 - 10:08 am

        Thanks! I’ll give that a try sometime. Meanwhile this weekend I’m going to make the cheese again (creamy style) — bake a cornmeal tart, add the cheese as the first layer, top that with homemade basil pesto, and top that with marinated tomatoes. Can’t wait!ReplyCancel

  • Tori//Gringalicious04/07/2016 - 8:09 am

    OMG, this salad, YESSSS!!!!!! I adore how fresh and seasonal it is. The kind of salad that inspires everyone around to eat healthier!ReplyCancel

  • Nik05/07/2016 - 11:18 am

    This is probably one of the most beautiful photos of a grilled corn salad I have seen this summer!!! Beautiful as always, Laura!ReplyCancel

  • Julia05/07/2016 - 3:25 pm

    Just saw your book on amazon!!!OMGOMGOMG Cannot wait until the preorder opens i´m so curious for all the recipes you created for that! So while I have to practice my patience I will try this lovely combination of a salad, I always love tossing veg and fruit together, but didn´t do that with blueberries yet!And that “feta”!! <3ReplyCancel

  • Marianne06/07/2016 - 11:00 am

    This looks delicious! I made a greek pasta salad with almond “feta” the other day and it was amazing!ReplyCancel

  • Jane09/07/2016 - 5:27 pm

    I made it. I loved it. I turned friends on to it. A staple for…for-ever! Thank you!!ReplyCancel

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  • […] made plenty of cashew cheese since I got the bowl rolling in the winter, but this Summer Picnic Salad was my first go with almond feta! I used brown rice since that’s what was around. Fruity […]ReplyCancel

  • Dana22/08/2016 - 7:39 pm

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned to this recipe this summer! I’ve made the almond cheese at least a half dozen times, and have started experimenting: I’ve started to add a clove of garlic and 1/4 nutritional yeast (in which case I cut down the amount of salt), and this past time I subbed 1/2 of the almonds for a half cup of white kidney beans. So good!! I like it on everything :) I’ve made the salad itself a couple of times and both times instead of rice I made finely chopped, pan toasted tempeh for extra protein. Love this recipe and your site!ReplyCancel

    • Dana22/08/2016 - 7:39 pm

      Ha. Funny that I started with “I can’t tell you how many times” and then I proceeded to specifically tell you how many times :)ReplyCancel

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