summer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Mess

This post is sponsored by BC Blueberries.

for a summer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messsummer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messfor a summer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messsummer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Mess
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. And I’m back on that coffee train (so weak haha), so cold brew will ABOUND. 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 Messsummer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messsummer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messsummer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Messsummer picnic salad with blueberries & vegan "feta" - The First Mess
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!

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