I love a good salad. This cherry, quinoa and beet salad pushes all the right buttons for me: sweet (cherries), salty (feta), tangy (lemon dressing), hearty (quinoa), and crunchy (hazelnuts), with a peppery bite from the arugula.
My salad formula is largely learned from Sarah Forte over at Sprouted Kitchen. (Have you checked out her Bowl + Spoon book yet? I just picked it up from the library for the umpteenth time. Get it for the dressings, stay for the salads.) No one really likes a boring pile of raw vegetables, so Sara’s formula for a bowl transfers nicely to salad building. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A protein (cheese, egg, meat, tofu, etc.) and/or a legume
- A grain (if you want it to be more of a meal)
- Crunchy Toppings
Once you work this formula into your routine, salads start to get exciting. You’ll take a bite of your latest creation, think, “Hmm, this needs something…” and then be able to tick off items on the list to see what’s missing.
Salty and sweet also come into the mix when building a good flavor profile in your salads and bowls. For instance, this salad initially veered too far into the sweet category with roasted beets, juicy bing cherries, and a honey-laced dressing. To bring it back into the realm of the savory, I added zingy arugula, salty feta, and stirred a spoonful of Dijon mustard into the dressing. Boom, right back on balance.
The vinaigrette recipe here makes a little more than you need. I like to keep extra on hand to refresh my lunch the next day, because quinoa has a bad habit of sucking up dressing overnight. The honey-lemon vinaigrette would also be a stellar marinade for chicken breasts if you’re planning to grill, and you could even toss them on top of the salad for something even more filling.
Also, can we start a “Beets are Beautiful” campaign? Look at that color! My beet-loathing husband initially pushed this salad away like a pouty toddler (only somewhat in jest), and later grudgingly admitted that the beets weren’t actually so bad. If you have some trepidation about beets, their earthiness is tempered by the cherries here. I wrapped them in foil and roasted in a 350F oven for about 45 minutes while baking some zucchini bread. When you can stick a paring knife all the way through, they’re done! Just cool, unwrap, rub off the skins and you’re ready to party.
I hope you’re inspired to go out and make a better salad. To get you started on the protein-greens-veggies-grain-crunch method, try this cherry, quinoa and beet salad on for size. Happy lunching!
- 1 cup pitted, halved bing cherries
- 1 cup cubed, roasted beets (from 2 medium or 1 very large roasted beet)
- 1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
- 2.5 ounces (2-3 big handfuls) arugula
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- salt + pepper, to taste
- zest of 1 small lemon
- 5 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 5 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Whisk together all dressing ingredients except olive oil in a small bowl. Whisking with one hand and pouring with the other, incorporate the oil into the dressing in a thin stream. Taste, adjust salt if necessary, and set aside.
- Toss all salad ingredients in a large bowl with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Pour about half of the dressing over the top, toss, and taste for seasoning. This will serve 4 as a light lunch.