Friday, February 18, 2011

Kale Quinoa Salad

After months of cooking and eating for these cold winter days I am starting to crave the lightness of springtime food. This warm salad is a bridge between two seasons - maintaining all the warmth and comfort that is needed for cold days while incorporating the light airy flavors of spring. This recipe is super healthy, very flavorful, and definitely jazzes up the dreariness of winter. So go ahead and give it a try - your winter palate will thank you!

Here are the ingredients you will need:
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 pound kale, washed, stalk removed, and chopped.
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice or liquid from a can of diced tomatoes

Quinoa is a an ancient Inca grain (technically a pseudocereal) that is packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It's a seed that shares a common ancestor with leafy green vegetables like swiss chard and spinach. When fully cooked quinoa is light and fluffy, soft with a crunchy texture, and has a nice nutty flavor.

Bring the quinoa, water, and tomato juice to a boil in a medium pot with a pinch of salt. Once boiling cover and reduce to low heat and simmer for 20 minutes. The quinoa will absorb the liquid, becoming fluffy. I know my quinoa is fully cooked when the spiral outer husk starts to separate from the seed.

As the quinoa is cooking you can start the kale. Heat a large saute pan on medium with the olive oil. Add the diced onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, and some pepper and cook until the onion starts becoming translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the kale and continue cooking until it wilts and turns a dark green, another 3-4 minutes. Add the pine nuts, currants, and balsamic vinegar and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, until the vinegar has reduced to a syrup. Add the lemon zest and season to taste with salt.

You can eat the kale this way as a side veggie, or you can mix the sauteed kale into the quinoa to make a tasty, healthy complete meal. I was shocked at how good this turned out - the lemon zest and balsamic vinegar brighten the dish, the currants give a nice sweetness, and the pine nuts bring some richness.