I love grain salads - they're easy to make ahead, stash in the fridge, and then pack in my lunch all week for something healthy and filling. The base of this salad is quinoa, one of my all-time favorite whole grains - it's crunchy, nutty, and has lots of protein to keep me full. The quinoa is dressed with a tasty cherry balsamic dressing (thanks to my awesome sister for the cherry balsamic vinegar), and then tossed with tons of flavorful add-ins: sweet apples, crunchy fennel, toasted pecans, chewy dried cherries, and creamy goat cheese. I packed this salad as a sorta main dish alongside half a sandwich and a fruit or vegetable, and it worked perfectly in that role. If you're making this salad ahead, I recommend squeezing some lemon juice over it just before serving to brighten up the flavors.
Quinoa Salad with Apple, Fennel, Dried Cherries, and Goat Cheese (adapted from Fine Cooking)
1-1/2 cups quinoa (I used a mix of red and white), rinsed
1/3 cup cherry balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 T walnut oil
Salt and pepper
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 small apple, cored and chopped into 1/2-inch dice
3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
2 T minced fennel fronds
2 T minced tarragon
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and then add the quinoa and salt. Lower heat, and simmer about 20 minutes, until tender, adding more water as needed. Drain and run under cold water until cooled.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, and walnut oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Combine the cooled quinoa, fennel apple, pecans, goat cheese, cherries, and herbs in a large salad bowl. Gently toss to combine. Add about 1/2 cup of the dressing and toss to combine. Taste and add more vinaigrette, salt, or pepper as needed. Keeps well in the fridge.