In the kitchen - Kale & Quinoa Salad
Whenever I find myself feeling a little bit broke due to too much weekend YOLO-ing [read: almost always] I try to take the work week off from eating out and ordering in. Sometimes this means scavenging for lunch meeting leftovers at work or eating 3 granola bars and a bowl of ice cream for dinner, but sometimes I get my shit together enough to go to the grocery store and make some proper meals.
This kale & quinoa salad is 100% ripped off from Kings Highway at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. It is so good I ate it for lunch two days in a row when I was there a few weeks ago, which, to many might sound kind of unadventurous BUT, this salad is healthy, delicious, and literally every ingredient in it is trendy--kale! quinoa! dates! caramelized onions! marcona almonds! hibiscus dressing! Meaning once you finish it, you'll not only feel nourished and full of vitamins, you will actually be COOLER than you were before lunch! Incredible!
In my version, I switched out the Ace's fancy hibiscus dressing for a vinaigrette that is essentially this one from Smitten Kitchen because I had all the ingredients to make it. That's right, I don't keep dried hibiscus flowers on hand. There, I said it. I also just used plain old roasted, unsalted almonds instead of marcona almonds because that's what I had at home.
The great thing about this salad is that you can make it for dinner and take the leftovers for lunch the next day. Since kale is so hardy, it keeps well and won't get gross and soggy overnight like most greens. In fact, I think my salad was better the second day. So take that $13.00 kale salad at the lunch place near my office!
- 1 big bunch Lacinato kale (also called black, dinosaur, or Tuscan kale)
- 3/4 cup dry quinoa or ~2 cups cooked quinoa, if you happen to have leftovers
- 1 small onion
- 4 oz medjool dates
- 1/2 cup marcona almonds
- olive oil & butter (a scant tablespoon of each) for sautéing the onions
For the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons smooth Dijon mustard
- 1 scant teaspoon honey
- salt & pepper
To make the quinoa: Bring 2 cups of water or stock to a boil. I like to use vegetable stock for added flavor but if you're using water, you may want to add a couple pinches of salt once the water comes to a boil. Add in your quinoa and cover. Allow to simmer over low heat for 20-25 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.
While the quinoa is cooking, slice the onion into rings--about 1/4 inch thick--and then cut each ring in half. Add scant tablespoon of both butter and olive oil (you can adjust the amount accordingly depending on the size of your onion) to a warm pan. Once the oil is hot and the butter has started to bubble, and the onion slices to the pan and toss so they are coated in the oil and butter. Cook the onions, stirring every few minutes, over medium-low heat until they are a rich caramel color--probably about the same amount of time as the quinoa.
Next, wash and dry your kale and chop it into long, thin pieces. You can do this by stacking the leaves, rolling them up, and then slicing the roll into pieces crosswise. Give both the almonds and the dates a rough chop and throw them in a bowl with the kale.
Once the quinoa and onions are cooked, remove them from the heat and transfer them to a plate and/or put them in the fridge for a few minutes so they can cool off while you make the vinaigrette.
To make the vinaigrette: pour the olive oil, white wine vinegar, honey, and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Whisk the ingredients together and taste before adding salt and pepper. Once you add the seasoning, give the dressing another whisk and taste again to make sure you don't need to adjust your ratios.
Spoon the cooled quinoa and caramelized onions into the bowl with the kale, dates, and almonds. Give the salad a quick toss so that all the ingredients are well mixed and then add about half the dressing. Toss the salad again and taste before adding more dressing. I like to add just enough so that it helps bind the ingredients and provides a hint of acidity, but not too much that it overpowers the other flavors. After adding the desired amount of dressing, mix once more and serve.
Then when you're finished, throw the leftovers in the fridge for lunch tomorrow, you financially responsible master chef, you!