Quinoa Salad with Oranges, Pecans and Cranberries is a beautiful Fall salad that is both healthy and delicious. Perfect for the holidays!
Is the quinoa fad over yet? I have a tendency to try something once it’s lost it’s place as the foodie ‘darling.’ I can never quite get on-board with some of the over the top LOVE I see for some newly discovered foods so I watch and wait and I dig in when the mood strikes me, not when the masses say I have to. Kale chips also come to mind but I’ve yet to go that route; I just prefer Lay’s and I know you get that, right?
My first foray into quinoa territory was a couple of years ago with this Tandoori chicken dish, before quinoa had become heralded as the grain of all grains. While I enjoyed that dish it wasn’t until I made this Red Quinoa Chipotle Lime Salad with Corn and Avocado (next on ‘photos need to be redone’ list!) a couple of years ago that I first felt true quinoa love. I much preferred the flavor combination of the nutty quinoa better when mixed with a flavorful dressing and am surprised it’s taken me this long to delve in again but delve I have.
We simply loved this Quinoa Salad with Oranges, Pecans and Cranberries and I’m happy to add it to my quinoa repertoire; that list might be small but with these two salads it’s mighty!
I was first inspired to make this dish when I heard it mentioned on a telecast of Ina Garten’s show on the Food Network. I don’t even get that channel anymore; when I decided to cut back on cable it was easy to lose because there were too many contests and not enough chefs that inspired me so I said goodbye…and son of a gun I have survived!
Even though that was several years ago, I remember it well. Her recipe was for a wild rice salad but my pantry only offered up quinoa and I loved the end result. I did make a few other changes too. Don’t hate me but the Barefoot Contessa could have used a bit more of everything; 2 cups of wild rice or quinoa is a lot when finished and I thought her quantities of the other ingredients simply not satisfying enough.
I don’t want to search for a grape or a berry or a nut, I want some of them in every bite…are you with me? The dressing also benefited substantially with the addition of some honey; the tartness of vinegar and citrus was almost crying for it. I was delighted that this salad measured up to that salad last year; so much so that it wasn’t what I had on the side for dinner, it was dinner!
When I made this again for company a couple of weeks ago, I realized as I do often; the photos were just not representative of how beautiful this salad is. It’s earthy and warm but still with some vibrant colors. I’ve fixed that with new photos and even better, I’ve enjoyed it again and thought many of my readers would too.
I’ve found myself navigating more and more to enjoying fruits and nuts in my salads; maybe it’s because I only enjoy homegrown tomatoes in salads in the summer, the rest of the year I can find a variety of fruits for almost any season. While I think this salad is great all season long, I can envision serving it for a holiday meal too; the orange, cranberry and pecan components would fit right in. Sometimes rice and grains and other brown foods can create a challenge to photograph well, but with the pretty colors in this salad it made all the difference and the colors pop on the plate. It doesn’t hurt that it is so good. I mean really, REALLY good!
Quinoa Salad with Oranges, Pecans and Cranberries
- 10 oz quinoa (I used a variegated variety)
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup pomegranate juice (a juice blend is fine)
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 2 navel oranges, peeled and sliced between membranes
- 1 cup seedless red or green grapes, cut in half
- 2 Tbsp scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup pecans, toasted
For the Dressing
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup raspberry or balsamic vinegar
- 4 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp Orange Liqueur (optional - use orange juice)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Place the quinoa in a medium pot with the 2 cups of stock and 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer covered for 15 minutes, until it blooms. Drain well and put back into the pot and cover for 5 minutes. Remove lid and fluff with a fork and let cool.
- While the quinoa is cooking, soak the dried cranberries in the pomegranate juice to plump.
- Once the quinoa has cooled, drain the cranberries and add them to the bowl with the orange sections, grapes, scallions and pecans and mix gently.
For the Dressing:
- Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, orange liqueur and salt and pepper and whisk to combine; drizzle over the salad and stir in gently.
- Allow to sit for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Check seasonings and serve at room temperature.