Kale and Quinoa Salad with Cranberries and Feta

Back in December when I was bedridden with a back that capsized on the day of our cookiepalooza, which resulted in Mike bringing up Oreo truffles and shortbread at hour intervals, I started to fantasize about big salads, and would have paid $100 to anyone who delivered a hefty dose of kale.

I started flipping through food sites and blogs, looking for pictures of green things. Guys, I had it bad. I bookmarked this kale and quinoa salad with cranberries and feta, and swore I’d make it the minute I could stand at the kitchen counter again. I didn’t of course, and then it was Christmas, and the new year, and now February. So today, amongst it all, I made it for lunch. No biggie.

The great thing about a quinoa salad – besides its obvious deliciousness and ability to transform hard core leafy greens like kale – is that you can keep it in the fridge and have something great to dip into at any time without any mental effort. For days when your brain is otherwise occupied.

Although you can cook quinoa like rice -in a rice cooker, even- I like to cook it like pasta, in a pot of water, and strain it and return it to the warm pot to steam. Adding a handful of dried cranberries helps plump the fruit while absorbing excess moisture, as does a tea towel draped over the pot to absorb the steam. This guarantees fluffy quinoa.

The recipe – inspired by Dorie Greenspan’s chard stuffing – called for pine nuts, which cost about as much as platinum these days. Although I have a half a small bag in the freezer left over from some recipe or other, I’ve been coming up with substitutes, not wanting to waste the precious bitty things. But it occurred to me it would be an even more colossal waste to have them linger into freezer burned oblivion, only to be tossed out 10 years down the road.

And so I carefully unwrapped and shook out some pine nuts to toast in the toaster oven. I may have counted them, just to be fair. I gingerly set it on “toast” and ran to quick check my email.

Walnuts it is!

This is simply dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon – but it would be fab with a simple balsamic or red wine vinaigrette.

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Cranberries and Feta

Adapted from Beyond the Plate, where it was inspired by Dorie Greenspan’s Chard Stuffing. Quantities of each ingredient are up to you, of course – adjust each according to your taste.

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup dried cranberries
olive oil, for cooking
1 medium shallot or a small chunk of purple onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small bunch of kale
salt and pepper
pinch dried chili flakes (optional)
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup pine nuts or 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
a squeeze of lemon (optional)

In a medium pot of boiling salted water, cook the quinoa for 12-14 minutes, until just tender and the germ separates, making a little curly Q. Drain well in a fine sieve, then return to the pot (off the heat, but still warm), add the cranberries, cover with a tea towel and the lid, and set aside to cool.

In a medium skillet set over medium-high heat, heat a drizzle of oil and sauté the shallot or onion for a couple minutes, until soft. Remove the tough ribs from the kale, stack the leaves and thinly slice them. Add to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes until wilted. If you like, add a small splash of water to the pan to create steam, and cover for a few minutes. Season with salt and add a pinch of chili flakes, if you like. If you added water, remove the lid and cook until the moisture has cooked off.

Add the kale to the quinoa, along with the feta and pine nuts or walnuts. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Add a squeeze of lemon, if you like. Toss again and serve immediately. Serves 4.

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February 02 2012 11:23 pm | grains and one dish and salads and vegetarian

29 Responses to “Kale and Quinoa Salad with Cranberries and Feta”

  1. Dan @ Dan's Good Side on 02 Feb 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    You had me at kale…but, then, you also had me at the black pine nuts. I was just explaining in SFS class today how expensive they were and to be careful with them if students were cooking with them. :)

  2. CathyH on 03 Feb 2012 at 8:43 am #

    This sounds delicious. I may have to try it today! I love that you said you can “dip into it any time”.

  3. Ann on 03 Feb 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Sorry Julie, but I had to laugh at the pine nuts! Those things are crazily expensive. The salad looks delicious – I have just added the ingredients to my grocery list. I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while now, but haven’t commented – Thanks!

  4. Vivian on 03 Feb 2012 at 9:42 am #

    This comment has to be quick because I just put some pine nuts on to toast in a cast iron skillet…fortunately it is only a few feet away. Those little devils are expensive to burn. I love the texture of quinoa and this salad grabbed me this morning so it is going to be “what’s for lunch”. No kale in the house but spinach will do. (Not broccoli rabe though. I cooked some up yesterday and wow is it bitter! Any way to take that away from the otherwise pretty veg?)

  5. Amanda on 03 Feb 2012 at 10:10 am #

    How does this salad taste the next day? Did any of it make it to the next day?

  6. holly on 03 Feb 2012 at 11:37 am #

    Wow – if your food cravings have made it to Kale, congratulations, girl! I’ll have to give it a try; it looks yummy!

  7. Laurie from Burnaby on 03 Feb 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    I love quinoa! I’ll make this salad for sure. :)

  8. Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie) on 03 Feb 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    I like this salad already. Must buy some quinoa. Haven’t had it in years and it is all the rage again.

  9. Kristy Lynn @ Gastronomical Sovereignty on 03 Feb 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    ooooh that feeling of NEEDING greens is terrible! your quinoa dish is certainly a fix for that though. quinoa is always a good idea.

  10. Barb on 03 Feb 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    Julie, I love it that you show us your failures along with your successes! You make me laugh. hehehe

  11. Jen Sorenson on 03 Feb 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    My jaw dropped when I saw the burnt pine nuts. I would have cried or screamed horrendous curses, depending on the time of day. The salad, I’m sure, was lovely with walnuts. I just adore kale and quinoa with a nice lemon-based vinaigrette (I do 1:1 oil to lemon juice). I like to cut up a bunch of veggies into eensy-weensy pieces: peppers, carrots, celery, jicama, red onion, and I throw in garbanzos too, and tomatoes in summer. I mince the kale with parsley. I like the cranberry idea.

  12. KellyH on 04 Feb 2012 at 9:06 am #

    It is always hard for me to say what I love most about your blog… the pictures, the recipes or the humour, because I love it all!!

    Totally laughed out loud when I read “walnuts it is!” That would TOTALLY be my situation too!!

    Far too many things on the go at once, but always the best of intentions!

    PS Your Grandmother’s marmalade cookies recipe are now my father in law’s favourite! As long as I dont forget to set the timer. LOL

  13. natalie - ga on 04 Feb 2012 at 8:00 pm #

    Have a salad sitting in my fridge that looks very similar – yum. It also called for pine nuts… too expensive…. so I was right there with you and then OH NO! Totally would have been something I would have done! I could almost smell them from your picture…

  14. Christine on 04 Feb 2012 at 9:39 pm #

    Julie – I FINALLY have made one of your delicious recipes. I have been intending to try quinoa for SO long, and this recipe has finally given me the appropriate kick in the a$$ to do it. And it is super tasty. So thank you for a delicious introduction to quinoa!

  15. Ashley on 05 Feb 2012 at 9:03 am #

    This sounds amazing, I know I’d love it. My mother in law just gave me a bag of pine nuts too. :)

  16. kellyu on 08 Mar 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    I’ve seen pine nuts in recipes and swapped in unsalted roasted cashews.

  17. Vicky on 22 Mar 2012 at 7:24 am #

    This sounds like an awesome flavor combination. Will have to try this asap!

  18. Caroline Hanna on 19 Jul 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    This is a great recipe I am going to try tonight. I really love your humour… I’ve burnt SO many things!

  19. Boleslawiec on 26 Jul 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    It is so simple to add things to quinoa and end up with a nourishing and pleasing meal. It can be prepared in minutes. What you add to your salad will depend on what you have in your garden or fridge to put in.

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  25. dressed kilt on 21 Mar 2014 at 2:16 am #

    You really make it appear really easy along with your presentation however I find this topic to be actually something that I feel I would by no means understand.
    It kind of feels too complex and very large for me.

    I’m having a look ahead for your next submit, I will try to get the cling of it!

  26. Sophia on 16 Jun 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    I made this for lunch today. Super delicious. The sweet from the cranberry with the zing of the feta makes for a very tasty flavor. Will be adding this to the rotation in our house.

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