I am not a big kale person, or a big quinoa person, at all – I only wanted to make this salad so badly because I knew Deb also isn’t big on kale or quinoa, and she made this and loved it. If she could, then I could, so I did.
I hadn’t purchased kale in about a year, and I was shocked with how long it took to wash, de-stem, and then dry the kale. It was the main time-consuming part of this recipe! Maybe I am just painfully slow but it took me about 20-25 minutes. For the first time I actually truly wished I had a salad spinner. So I wouldn’t exactly call this recipe “quick,” unless you can find pre-cut dinosaur/lacinato/tuscan kale, which would be awesome (also, why does this 1 type of kale have so many different names? Grr).
[Edit 3/23/14: We made this salad again last night with pre-washed baby kale and it was so fast and easy. Highly recommended if you want a faster recipe!]
But, as I was suspecting, it was worth it. My boyfriend proclaimed that this “might be the best salad he’s ever eaten” and said “can we start making this all the time?” which is high praise. It is very, very good and the dressing is really fantastic – I hope to make it for many salads to come. I had to sub in a couple ingredients: I couldn’t find ricotta salata so I used feta (it worked great), and I didn’t have dried cherries so I used cranberries (tasted great). So this is highly, highly recommended.
Kale and Quinoa Salad with Ricotta Salata (or feta)
adapted (barely) from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4-6 as a starter/side, 2-3 as a main
(*note: its important to get the type of kale listed in the ingredients, because it is tender and won’t be too bitter or tough raw in a salad. I’ve tried it with other types of kale and it is not as good.)
For the salad:
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
8 ounces Black Kale, also known as Cavolo Nero, or Lacinato, Dinosaur, or Tuscan Kale
1/2 cup slivered almonds or walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries, chopped a bit
2 to 3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
2 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled or finely grated (I used feta and it was great)
Few gratings of fresh lemon zest
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons smooth Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon coarse Dijon mustard
Just shy of 1 teaspoon honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Rinse quinoa well in a small colander to remove bitterness. Place quinoa and 1 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer with a couple pinches of salt. Simmer at a very low temperature for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Drain any un-absorbed liquid from cooked quinoa. Spread quinoa on a plate to cool quickly.
Wash your kale and dry it well. Then, with a knife, remove the rib from each stalk, leaving long strips of kale leaves. Stack the leaves in small batches, roll them tightly the long way, and cut the roll crosswise into thin ribbons. Add the kale ribbons to a large salad bowl. Add remaining salad ingredients and toss to mix.
Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small dish, and pour the dressing over the salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste.