Wait – keep reading! If the idea of a kale and quinoa salad sounds less than appealing, I should also mention the crunchy toasted almonds and tangy-sweet balsamic dressing. And, that this delicious fiber-fest is also vegan, gluten-free, low-calorie, nutrient-rich, and filling. FILLING! Now do I have your attention?
For the enlightened among you, kale and quinoa are nothing new. But I’ll admit to you here that I had never eaten either until only recently. (Sue-Benighted’s Kitchen!) Quinoa (KEEN-wah), I’ve learned, is a seed that cooks like rice and tastes a little nutty and chewy, like a cross between brown rice and couscous (which is actually a pasta).
It’s loaded with nutrients and is considered a complete protein. (Here’s more info on quinoa: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=142&tname=foodspice). I cook it in the microwave, covered with my new favorite kitchen gadget, the vented plate cover.
You can mix (sneak) cooked quinoa into rice, meatloaf, maybe even chocolate chip cookies. (I haven’t tried that yet but might soon; hope the kids aren’t reading this.)
As for kale, I’ve used it to beautify trays of hors d’oeuvres but never thought of it as a salad green. I always assumed it would be tough and bitter. How wrong I have been! It’s surprisingly mild and almost sweet – like a broccoli-lettuce love child. Kale and cabbage make great salads for buffets because they stay crisp a long time; I dressed a big bowl of this salad for dinner, and the next day it was still somewhat crunchy. (Don’t try this with romaine.)
Back to a big bowl of this salad as dinner: it worked for me, but the rest of the family was not buying it. My 10-year-old tried a few bites for the camera, but it was just for show. (I’m going to try again in a month or so.)
So with about 6 servings of this salad still in the bowl the next day, I asked my friend Kris to come try some for lunch. She declared it a keeper, so there you go.
For the record, the recipe for the balsamic dressing I used on the salad came from Kris, so therefore this may not be a wholly unbiased review. However, Kris normally uses this dressing for her famous (she says “infamous”) Balsamic Chicken Salad, or sometimes as a glaze for salmon. She never thought to use it on kale or quinoa or cabbage. (She even admitted that she had never before purchased a head of cabbage or bunch of kale, because what the heck are you supposed to do with it?) Now we know that kale makes a great salad, and that her balsamic dressing can make almost anything taste delicious.
Kale, Red Cabbage and Quinoa Salad
Serves 10-12 as a side salad or 6 as a main meal
- 2 cups cooked quinoa (see below)
- 1 bunch of curly-leaf kale, washed and chopped (approx. 6 cups)
- 2 cups shredded red cabbage (packaged or thinly sliced from a small head)
- 4-6 scallions, chopped (light and dark green parts only, unless you want a stronger onion flavor)
- ¼ cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
- Balsamic dressing (recipe below)
To cook quinoa, add 1 cup raw quinoa seeds to a microwavable bowl. Add ½ teaspoon kosher salt and 2 cups water. Cover and microwave for 10-15 minutes, or until all liquid has been absorbed. Remove bowl from microwave (bowl will be hot) and cover with plastic wrap to rest/finish steaming. Fluff with a fork like you would rice or couscous.
To toast almonds in a toaster oven, line a small pan with foil. Add nuts in a single layer and bake at 275 for 5 minutes or until lightly golden.
To toast over the stove, add nuts to a skillet and cook over medium-low heat until lightly golden. For both methods, watch closely as nuts can burn quickly. (I toast a cup or more of nuts at a time and save the rest for snacking or adding to oatmeal.)
Strip thick stems from the kale and wash and dry the leaves. (A lettuce spinner works well for this.) Chop and add to a large salad bowl. Add shredded red cabbage, scallions, cooked and cooled quinoa and toasted almonds.
Toss with balsamic dressing (to taste) and serve. [Leftover dressed salad will keep for at least a day, covered and refrigerated.]
Kris F.’s Balsamic Dressing
- 5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup vegetable or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons sugar
Add all ingredients to a jar. Fasten lid and shake vigorously. Refrigerate any unused dressing.