Need an alternative to traditional cranberry salad? Try this cranberry quinoa kale salad. A delicious combination of flavors and textures creates a fabulous side dish for the holiday table!
I’m not a huge fan of fruit. My preferences run deeply towards salty, savory and vegetal, and fruit is a … conundrum. Their sweet flavor bases make me think “dessert,” but, upon tasting, they’re not sweet enough (and definitely not chocolatey enough) to satisfy any dessert craving I might have.
Oh, I like fruit, to be sure — almost all fruits, in fact, — but when faced with a clump of broccoli or an apple, I’ll reach for the broccoli (yes, I’m *that* weirdo). (Actually, I’ll reach behind the broccoli for the bag of kale chips, but I’m just splitting cruciferous hairs here.)
I’ve found a more kindred spirit in tart fruit. Citrus, pomegranates, strawberries, red grapes — these are fruits I can really get behind, especially when they’re part of a larger dish, like a heaping fresh green salad.
This past Thanksgiving, when my lighter-healthier food cravings were already kicking in, I eyed a leftover bag of fresh cranberries with curiosity: aside from the goopy sauce side dish, just what can you do with super-tart cranberries?
The research was enlightening, and led to one of my favorite salads this season.
Buzzing fresh, raw cranberries in a food processor with honey and orange zest creates an entirely lovely little product — a sort of relish. Mixed with saffron-kissed quinoa, pomegranate seeds, massaged kale, mint, green onions, and pistachios, it’s a full-flavored side dish fit to complement everything from roasted chicken to veggie burgers.
Bonus: I love the texture and crunch from the various ingredients (remember, the “chew” is every bit a part of the eating experience as flavor and aroma).
And this thing is healthy as all get out. As it turns out, cranberries don’t really need all that much sweetening to be palatable (ever make fresh cranberry sauce? It’s leaps and bounds better than canned, but, as the cook, it’s also a bit depressing to pour a cup of sugar over fruit with the knowledge that it still isn’t a dessert).
Frankly, I can eat the raw cranberry relish by the spoonful, but if you’re concerned about tartness, I assure you, once it’s mixed with the other ingredients, the tart-grain-nut-green balance is spot on.
Cranberry Quinoa Kale Salad
for the quinoa
- 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 cup water
- 1 pinch saffron crushed with a little salt (optional, but lovely)
for the salad
- 4 large lacinato kale leaves stems removed, sliced thinly
- Olive oil
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup, to make it vegan
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh mint leaves about 8 leaves
- 1/4 cup pistachios chopped
- Kosher salt
- Rinse the quinoa under fresh water in a fine-mesh sieve and drain. Bring the water to boil and add the crushed saffron and rinsed quinoa. Stir to mix, then reduce heat to maintain an active simmer and cover. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until most of the quinoa seeds have released their little curlicue tails. Fluff with a fork, and transfer to a bowl or plate to cool.
- In a medium mixing bowl, add the kale, a big pinch of salt, and a light drizzle of olive oil. Use your fingers to massage the oil into the sliced kale. The kale will become silky and very dark green. Set aside.
- Add the fresh cranberries, olive oil, honey, orange zest, and salt to the bowl of a food processor and chop until roughly the texture of the quinoa. Set aside.
- In a large serving bowl, add the cooled quinoa, massaged kale, cranberry relish, plus pomegranate, green onion, mint, and pistachios. Toss well to mix. Taste, and add another pinch of salt, if desired.
- Can be served immediately at room temperature, or chilled for later. Makes a fabulous lunch the next day.
(inspired by this recipe)