Cranberry, Orange and Goat Cheese Quinoa Salad
Everyone is getting into quinoa now and for those of us that have known about it for quite awhile, when it was a bit harder to find, it’s reminiscent of discovering a band before they were big. “Yeah, well I liked them before anybody even knew their name.” Imagine that in a whinny, douchebag voice and you get the idea. I for one welcome everyone to trying this amazing superfood. It’s the only grain out there that is a complete protein, which means it has all nine essential amino acids needed to make a protein strand. I’m not going to go into complete and incomplete differences here; Google it if you want to know more. Hey, the recipe is free already, right?
Dried cranberries are my go to choice of adding a touch of sweetness to any salad. They’re tart and sweet and add just enough texture to make things interesting. Orange happens to compliment cranberries better than anything else I can conceive and these two things together, being sweet as they are, pair extremely well with the gamey flavor of goat cheese. Mix in some celery for salt and crunch, some basil for freshness and bind it all together with the quinoa, and you have a salad that hits numerous flavor profiles and textures and really elevates all of these ingredients up a few notches. The fact that it’s good for you too is just the icing on the cake.
1 Cup Quinoa
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
2-1/2oz Chèvre (Soft Goat Cheese) crumbled
2 Stalks Celery sliced
1/4 Cup Basil chiffonade
Salt & Pepper
I didn’t want the orange flavor to overwhelm this salad, which it easily can if you were to grate the zest into it. So instead, I peeled the orange zest off and cooked the large strips with the quinoa and also used the juice to soak the cranberries. This technique worked well for flavor and then you get a neat little garnish out of the softened orange strips as well.
For peeling the orange, use a vegetable peeler and don’t be afraid to put some force into it. The orange hates being peeled like this and will give you tiny pieces at a time if you don’t show it who’s boss. Make sure to peel away from your hand when using any significant pressure.
Juice the orange into a bowl with the cranberries to rehydrate them a bit. This will also pull some of the sugars out of the berries, which will combine nicely with the juice.
If you buy your quinoa in bulk it may still have a coating on it known as saponin. Saponin can taste a bit soapy to some people who are sensitive to it, but a quick rinse in a fine mesh strainer will take care of it. Most commercially packaged quinoa is pre-rinsed. Heat 2 cups of lightly salted water to a boil and add your quinoa and orange zest strips. Reduce to a low simmer, cover and let cook for about 12 minutes.
When the water is completely absorbed, remove the orange zest and if you want you can julienne a few for a garnish. You’ll find that they are completely devoid of flavor at this point. Combine the cranberries and juice into the warm quinoa, mix and let cool for about 15 minutes.
Once cool, mix in the celery and basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the chèvre and gently fold in.
Garnish with a bit more basil, goat cheese and the julienned orange zest for fanciness and serve.