This salad is a lot easier to toss together than a glance at the ingredient list might indicate. You can slice and dice while the quinoa/wild rice mixture is bubbling away and the mushrooms are roasting in the oven. Everything finishes up at about the same time, you mix the ingredients together, and serve — all in about 45 minutes.
This dish tastes wonderful at room temperature or chilled, so you can serve it fresh as soon as you’ve put it together, or keep it on hand in the fridge for easy weekday lunches or hurried weeknight meals. It’s hearty enough to be a vegetarian entree (just substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth) but also makes an interesting and nutritious side dish. I served it to rave reviews last weekend at a poolside dinner gathering (alongside salmon burgers), so while the dish is convenient enough for everyday, it tastes special enough for company, too. Such versatility!
Cherry Quinoa Salad
(modified from a recipe in Eating Well)
3/4 cup wild rice, well-rinsed
1/2 cup quinoa, well-rinsed
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
10 oz. crimini or baby bella mushrooms
1 Tbsp + 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 cups fresh, sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
2 celery stalks, diced
2/3 cup firm, smoked cheese, diced
2 Tbsp fresh herbs, finely chopped (e.g. parsley, basil, mint, thyme)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I used black-currant infused)
salt and pepper to taste
Serves 8 as a side dish, or 4 as an entree. Make sure the grains are well-rinsed to avoid bitterness in the final dish. Combine the wild rice, quinoa, and chicken broth in a rice cooker and cook until fluffy.
Meanwhile, chop up the mushrooms, toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and roast in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes or until tender and browned. When done, set aside to cool to room temperature.
Chop up the pecans and toast for 5 minutes in a dry pan over medium heat, gently shaking the pan every once in a while to avoid burning. Let cool to room temperature.
Pit and slice the cherries, and set aside. Chop up the celery and herbs, and set aside. Dice the cheese into 1/4″ cubes.
When the grains are finished cooking, pour out onto a baking sheet, and fluff them while spreading them out to cool for about 10 minutes. When the hot ingredients have cooled to room temperature (or are still just slightly warm), combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and balsamic vinegar and drizzle over the salad. Toss to combine well, salt and pepper to taste, and serve.