Kale and Quinoa Salad with Avocado Dijon Dressing / by Chelsea Zwieg

Happy 2016! As someone who goes to bed earlier than most of the elderly, I like to think that I have already achieved a lot this year by making it until midnight (and two hours past) without falling asleep standing up in the narcoleptic fashion I sometimes feel drawn to. I would like to thank caffeine, sugar and a burning desire to win all rounds of Heads Up for helping me accomplish this.

But actually now, 2015 was a seriously wonderful year. Full of family, friends, a new apartment with the coolest roommate I know, a new job that I am absolutely crazy about and so many more things that I can't even believe. I am so thankful that God has filled my life with so many unbelievable blessings and I can't wait to see what's in store for this next year.

 

I don't know what this year will hold, but I do know what this weekend will hold. And that is this kale and quinoa salad. So, so far so good. Kale and I have had a bit of a rocky relationship over the years. I want to like it so bad, but amid too many servings of scratchy, overly bitter and under dressed kale abominations, I just about gave up. But, as they say, new year, new kale (they say that right?). The secret? Massage it. 

Massaging the leaves before assembling the salad (which is as simple as squeezing and releasing the kale in handfuls for a couple minutes) makes them soft and tender, reduces the bitterness and helps the leaves actually hold the dressing, rather than letting it all slide off. This puts kale right into the leafy green sweet spot that I crave. It is no longer prickly or bitter, but it is still more flavorful, heartier and sturdier than other greens such as spinach, which wilt too easily in a salad like this. 

After the kale is all ready to go, it gets mixed with quinoa, sweet roasted carrots, crunchy cucumbers and pomegranate seeds. All the best of winter produce (you could also sub sweet potato or squash for the carrots) hanging out in one simple salad. It gets finished off with a creamy avocado dijon dressing because mustard in dressing is all I ever want. And best of all, because kale is so sturdy, this salad will keep all week long. Perfect for a quick lunch or you could add a fried egg or a some leftover chicken and have an easy dinner. 

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Avocado Dijon Dressing

Serves 4

| Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 small bunch kale (about 3 heaping cups once it is chopped)
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 large carrots, small diced
  • 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper

| Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425. Toss diced carrots with 1 tsp. olive oil, chili powder, paprika and a pinch of salt. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast 20-25 minutes, until carrots are tender. 
  • In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 cup water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering until all the water has absorbed and quinoa is cooked, about 15 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile, prepare the kale. Remove the ribs (the thick center stems) from the kale and discard. Wash the leaves and pat dry. Place leaves in a large bowl and massage them until they become dark green. This is definitely not an exact science, but I would say about 2 minutes, or 30-40 good squeezes will do the trick.  You are looking for the kale to shrink in size, become dark green and smell mega lettucey. Once the kale is tender, transfer to a cutting board and chop into small, bite size pieces. 
  • Place kale in a large bowl. Add cooked quinoa, roasted carrots, cucumber and pomegranate seeds. Mix to combine.
  • To make the dressing, combine avocado, lime juice and 1/4 cup water in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. You may need more water if your lime was not very juicy. Add dijon, 1 tbsp olive oil and chopped herbs. Blend once more until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Toss the salad with the dressing or serve it on the side.