We now have a 3 year old! A 3 year old who eats things like quinoa, kiwi, prosciutto, and even a bite of sushi now and then. The crazy thing is that I can distinctly remember the first time I tried each of those foods – because I was far, far older than 3. But the small town I grew up in didn’t have fancy grocery stores that carried “fancy” foods – and on the occasion that they did, they most definitely wouldn’t have fit into our family’s small budget.
Growing up, vegetables that didn’t come from our garden came from a can, which means I also can remember the first time I had fresh broccoli (with ranch dip!) and cauliflower (with ranch dip!) and even fresh spinach. And even better than ranch dip? The spinach was in salad-form, coated in the late 90’s-early 2000’s trendy warm bacon dressing.
I immediately came home to recreate that magical, fancy salad for my family… only I didn’t wash the spinach well enough so I served my family a huge bowl of gritty spinach salad with warm bacon dressing. True story. One I have yet to live down. (Is that spinach? Did you wash it this time? IT WAS OVER 15 YEARS AGO!)
And occasionally, I have this dream where I’m catering some gigantic, super special event and I realized that I forgot to wash the spinach that the President (or the Queen or Peyton Manning – the really important people) is about to eat. Another true story.
My to-be sister-in-law brought this salad to a family get-together a couple of years ago and it has been one of my favorites ever since. It’s fresh spinach (triple-washed at the farm and then washed again at home!), quinoa (cooked and then chilled – so plan ahead), toasted pine nuts, and crumbled goat cheese tossed in a simple vinaigrette.
It’s as easy to make as it is to go back for seconds.
Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Goat Cheese
An easy salad with fresh spinach, quinoa, goat cheese, and pine nuts tossed in a simple vinaigrette.
- For the salad
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 3 oz fresh baby spinach, chopped (half a bag or clam shell)
- 4 oz goat cheese (about 1/3 of a log)
- For the dressing
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped shallot
- 1 Tbsp spicy brown or dijon mustard (I use Creole)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Cook quinoa in water according to package directions.
- Spread the cooked quinoa on a plate or other shallow dish and refrigerate until completely cool, stirring once or twice if you're in a hurry.
- In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts ~2 minutes and then shake the pan and heat for another minute.
- Transfer to a small plate and let cool.
- In a large bowl, add the chopped spinach, cold quinoa (it must be cold so it doesn't wilt the spinach), crumbled goat cheese, and cooled pine nuts.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, shallot, and mustard.
- Slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking and add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
- Before serving, toss the dressing with the salad and serve.
- Leftovers will keep a couple of days covered in the fridge.
Yields: 6 generous servings
Estimated time: 45 minutes