Holiday eating is all about balance. I look forward to filling up my plate with fancy cheeses and buttery baked goods, as long as I leave plenty of room for colorful veggies too. Whenever I’ve prepared a tapas meal for friends, it’s the same deal: a couple indulgent “meaty” dishes rounded out with zesty veggie sautes and salads. This roasted carrot and quinoa salad by my friend Joanne is perfect for such an occasion. Which is no surprise, because she has such a knack for creating the most intriguing and exotic veggie-filled food on the planet: Thai Sweet Potato and Squash Pot Pie, Zaatar Roasted Eggplant Breakfast Bowl with Swiss Chard, Squash and Hummus, and Vegetarian Chili with Cashew Pistachio Sauce.
At the risk of being the epitome of a health-food-loving-hippie-vegetarian cliche…yes, I carry quinoa salads around with me to parties like they’re some kind of new fashion statement.
I might never have the latest Kate Spade purse and my skinny jeans are probably so two seasons ago…but I venture to guess that I’ve got enough variations on a quinoa theme in rotation that I’ll never have to wear the same salad twice. Win.
My favorite of the week is this roasted carrot and red quinoa salad from Food&Wine. In it, carrots and red onions are roasted in a blend of some of my favorite Middle Eastern spices, making them taste quite warm and cozy. They are then tossed with quinoa and a lemon-mustard dressing that is infused with the same flavors. The entire dish comes together to be a mix of spicy, sweet, and salty that will leave vegetarians and vegans content to eat it as a main course, and won’t have a single omnivore asking, “where’s the meat?”
Bet your Kate Spade purse can’t do that.
Roasted Carrot and Red Quinoa Salad
Yield: 8 servings
Middle-eastern spiced roasted carrots tossed with nutty quinoa, zesty arugula and sweet cranberries in a fruity olive oil vinaigrette.
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
freshly ground black pepper
4 large carrots, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 red onion, thinly sliced
5 tbsp olive oil
1 cup red quinoa
2 cups water
2 tbsp lemon juice
5 oz arugula
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 400. In a small bowl, whisk together the paprika, turmeric, cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cardamom, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp black pepper. In a medium bowl, toss the carrots and the red onion with 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Add 1 tbsp of the spice mix and toss to coat. Spread the veggies on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring once, until tender.
In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa, 2 cups water, and 2 tsp spice mix. Bring water to a boil, then cover and lower to a simmer for 15-20 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Allow to cool.
In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 3 tbsp olive oil with the lemon juice, lemon zest, 1 tsp spice mix and dijon mustard, adding salt to taste. Toss the dressing with the quinoa, arugula, veggies, cranberries and parsley in a large bowl. Serve.