This salad is loosely based off of my kale and walnut pesto recipe. But with a few revisions, I’ve come up with a salad that’s light, yet hearty enough for a main course! And as always, there’s room for plenty of versions – substitute your favorite nuts and dried fruits to make it your own. You can swap out the quinoa for bulger wheat or another of your favorite grains or seeds. Just remember, the key is in the blanching of the kale which brightens up the leaf and softens its texture.
The best thing about this is it combines several “super” foods: kale, quinoa, cranberries and walnut oil which has 1.77g of Omega 3’s per serving! So feel free to indulge!
6-8 cups kale leaves (roughly 2 bundles), ribs removed
2 large fresh garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped (or 2 tablespoons minced)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/3 cup olive oil (for extra walnut taste (blend olive oil with roasted walnut oil – I found some at Home Goods for $8.99!)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice (roughly 1/2 of a large lemon – squeezed)
1/2 teaspoon course sea salt (to taste)
1 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts (raw is fine but toasting brings out their nuttiness)
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup dried cranberries (I use Craisens Pomegranate cranberries)
Remove ribs from kale and give it a rough chop. In a large pot, bring water to a boil with a couple of pinches of salt. Prepare a large boil of ice water and set aside. Once water in boiling, add kale for about 1 minute. Your kale will start to turn a brighter green. Remove kale from pot and immediately put in ice water. This is called blanching and is what helps give (and keep) your kale a bright green. Remove kale from ice water after 1 minute and squeeze dry.
Peel and roughly chop two large bulbs of garlic. If you are using pre-minced garlic, this is roughly 2 tablespoons.
If you are roasting your walnuts, place then in a dry saute pan over medium heat. Continue moving them in the pan until you begin to smell their nuttiness. It should take about 2 minutes. Keep an eye on them – they burn
easily (which is why I don’t put them in the oven anymore – I always forget them!).
Using the water from blanching your kale, bring 1 cup to a boil. Add 1 cup quinoa and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once you see that the quinoa seeds are beginning to burst open you know they are about done. Once the water is absorbed turn off heat and fluff with a fork. The cooking process for this is similar to couscous. Add a pinch of salt and let completely cool. NOTE: Do not add quinoa to salad until cooled or it will wilt the kale.
Ready to Make?
In a food processor, add the blanched kale, garlic and Parmesan. Pulse 6-7 times while slowly, through the feed tube, drizzling the oil(s) until mixture is moistened and is well-combined. NOTE: It’s important to use the pulse feature and not let your processor run… you want to retain some of the leafy texture of the kale – you do not want it as fine as the pesto. Remove lid and spoon into serving bowl. Zest a whole lemon directly into mixture and squeeze half of the lemon into the mixture. Add dried cranberries, walnuts and cooled quinoa. Gently toss until thoroughly mixed. Add salt to taste.
The Perfect Bite
This is the perfect opportunity for the perfect bite – be sure to stack your fork with a little bit of everything! Sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy, refreshing and hearty… it’s got everything!
The Perfect Pairing
One of my new favorite wines is the Cline 2012 Mourvèdre Rosé. It is crisp and refreshing, not overly sweet, and has hints of pomegranate, cherry and plum… which will pair wonderfully with the dried pomegranate cranberries and walnuts in this salad. Mourvèdre is a rare grape in California and has beautiful mouth-feel on this rosé.
The Perfect Health
Though quinoa is considered a whole grain – it is technically a seed. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.” Quinoa is gluten-free and an excellent source of protein. For more health benefits read HERE.