This awesome Cranberry, Kale & Quinoa Salad makes a filling meal or a wonderful side dish any time of the year. You can modify it to omit the quinoa if you're looking for a grain-free or lighter version. This recipe serves 4, double or triple it if making a holiday side.
Note: you’ll need 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice for this salad (from about 1 large or two small lemons)
For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey, maple syrup or white sugar
- 1 large garlic clove, smashed open*
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (I use Real Salt)
- A few spins of freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
- 1 bunch green or Tuscan (lacinato) kale, ribs removed and finely chopped, plus 1 tablespoon of lemon juice for the kale massage
- 1/3 cup dried quinoa (makes about 3/4 cup cooked quinoa; omit the quinoa to make this grain-free or lighter if serving with a big meal)
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted in a dry skillet (**see substitutions)
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries (***see substitutions)
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (real Parmesan cheese)
- Make the dressing first to infuse with garlic. In the bottom of a medium to large mixing bowl that's big enough to fit your whole salad, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper together. Smash open the garlic clove and discard the skin, then let the smashed garlic clove sit in the dressing while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. You can also shake the dressing in a mason jar up to 24 hours in advance if you want to make it ahead. Discard the smashed garlic clove before adding the rest of the ingredients. (*Or, finely chop it and leave it in from the beginning for a strong garlic flavor.)
- Prepare the quinoa. Rinse the dry quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, then add it to a 3- to 4-quart pot with 1 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until all of the water is absorbed, about 12-15 minutes. Set a timer so it doesn’t burn at the end. Drain excess water if needed. See here how to make perfect fluffy quinoa. (Or, buy cooked quinoa on the hot bar at your store.)
- While the quinoa cooks, remove the tough ribs from the kale (and save them for your juicer if you juice.) Chop the kale into 1/2-inch ribbons, then squeeze about 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice onto the the chopped kale (you can do this right on the cutting board or in a bowl). Massage the lemon juice into the chopped kale for about a minute to soften the kale (sounds strange, but it makes a huge difference for a better texture).
- Toast the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until they are fragrant and very lightly browned (you can also do this for a few minutes under the broiler or in a toaster oven on a sheet pan.) Watch them closely so they don't burn.
- Discard to smashed garlic clove if needed. Toss the cooked quinoa, kale, toasted nuts, dried cranberries (or substitute), and Parmigiano cheese with the dressing.
** Chopped walnuts are also great here. Or, use toasted pumpkin seeds if you’re allergic to nuts
*** Dried cranberries can be substituted with pomegranate seeds, finely chopped apples, or chopped dried apricots. Use what you have on hand or what sounds good.
This salad makes a great vegetarian option for a holiday meal. If you're not looking for a vegetarian option and want a salad to serve with a Prime Rib Roast or Turkey, my suggestion is to omit the quinoa for a lighter (and still awesome) salad. If you do this, reserve a few tablespoons of the dressing to the side, and add it back in if needed.
Keywords: Cranberry, Kale & Quinoa Salad