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.