Tart and refreshing, with a hearty crunch from the toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), this salad is about as healthy as a salad can be. The goat cheese is optional, to make it vegan-friendly as well. You see, I received a giant bunch of curly kale in my CSA (community-supported agriculture) box and needed to find something to do with it using supplies already at hand. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food came to my rescue, sparking this idea. I wandered a bit from the original recipe – for example, it calls for poppy seeds but I substituted pepitas because, well, that’s what I had, plus poppy seeds always get stuck in one’s teeth, don’t they. Humph.
There has been a lot written about how to cook quinoa already, so I’ll leave you in the capable hands of TheKitchn.com‘s How to Cook Quinoa post. Just remember to rinse the quinoa well before cooking since it has a naturally-occuring bitter coating that you will want to remove. You can use it warm in this salad if you like it that way and don’t mind a bit of wilting by the greens, or you can use leftover quinoa cold from the fridge.
- FOR THE SALAD:
- 2½ c. cooked quinoa
- 1 large bunch kale (any kind), washed, stemmed, and roughly chopped - or about 10 ounces baby spinach, washed
- ¼ c. pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- ¼-1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese, to taste (optional)
- FOR THE DRESSING:
- 1 lemon's zest and juice
- 1 tsp. agave nectar, or ½ tsp. sugar
- ⅓ c. olive oil
- Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
- Toast the pepitas: In a small frying pan, over high heat, toast the pepitas (dry, without oil), shaking every 30 seconds or so. This should take about 2-3 minutes and you will smell a nice toasty smell, upon which you should turn the heat off (keeping the pepitas in the pan, where they'll continue to toast). Don't skip this - it really brings out the flavor.
- Make the vinaigrette: In a small watertight jar with a lid, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, agave nectar or sugar, a large pinch of salt, and a few twists of freshly ground pepper. Tightly seal with the lid and shake the jar to combine ingredients. Using a piece of kale or spinach, taste the dressing, and add more salt, pepper, or sugar as needed.
- Assemble the salad: Add the kale to a large salad bowl. Pour about half the dressing over it, and the massage the dressing into the kale with your hands. This helps the kale become soft and tasty by breaking it down and allowing it to absorb the dressing. (You don't have to massage if you're using spinach.) Next, add the quinoa and the rest of the dressing, and toss to combine. To serve, top with pepitas and optional goat cheese, if using. Enjoy!