There is no better time to have a salad than in the winter. Yep, that’s right: Salads aren’t just summer fare. When the cold weather settles in, it’s even more important to get our daily dose of vitamins and nutrients. Luckily, winter brings its own produce rock stars — from glistening citrus to sturdy greens, hardy crucifers and root vegetables. Shredded, chopped and juiced, these ingredients can be layered into hefty salads laden with dried fruit, nuts and seeds and dubbed a complete meal.
This hearty salad is inspired by tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern bulgur salad liberally mixed with lemon, garlic and lots of fresh herbs. In this recipe, the bulgur is switched out with quinoa, a nutrient-rich seed, which is high in protein and gluten-free, and can be prepared like a grain. A shower of herbs and shredded red cabbage add crisp texture and flavor, while a variety of peppers and dried fruit add heat and sweetness.
The key to making this salad is to taste as you build it. There should be a balance of citrus, fragrance, heat and spice — as well as a balance of textures. Quinoa requires a good amount of seasoning for good flavor, so season the quinoa before adding it to the salad. You will also find that the flavors of the salad will meld if it can sit for an hour or two before serving. No worries about wilting; the sturdy veggies in the salad will stay fresh and crisp.
Winter Citrus Quinoa Salad
Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes; cooling time: 1 to 3 hours
Yield: makes 6 servings as a side dish or salad
1 1/2 cups red quinoa
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups water
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 large poblano pepper, seeded, finely diced
1 yellow or red bell pepper, seeded, finely diced
1 cup finely shredded red cabbage
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, leaves chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro sprigs, leaves chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped if large
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp. orange juice
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and thoroughly drain.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add the quinoa and cook for 1 minute to lightly toast the seeds, stirring frequently. Carefully add the water (it will sizzle). Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat until the quinoa is tender and releases its germ, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the quinoa and transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the lime juice, salt, cumin, paprika, coriander and cayenne. Stir to combine and cool to room temperature.
Add the scallions, peppers, cabbage, parsley, cilantro, raisins, garlic, orange juice and Tabasco. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.