Kale and Quinoa Salad - a Cheesecake Factory Recipe Clone

Quinoa and kale ... two superfoods, perfect together!

So I was at the local farmer's market the other day, picking up apple cider donuts for my father-in-law ("baked on the premises!") when I wandered over to the vegetable section.  I have to tell you that this particular local farmer's market has fruits and veggies so fresh you almost need to slap 'em.  Anyway, despite the (finally) seasonally cold weather, this local farmer's market had beautiful bunches of curly kale, just beggin' to be bought.

So I did.  Along with a red pepper and a couple lemons.  Because the idea for a recipe clone started coalescing in my cranium.  You see, a week or so ago I dined at a restaurant chain famous for its cheesecakes and massive-sized entrees.  So of course I had a salad.  But not just a salad.  A massive handfuls of kale, a good dusting of quinoa, microscopic bits of red pepper, a small handful of red grape halves and a baby-sized fistful of sunflower seeds, heavily showered with lemony vinaigrette containing a hint of Dijon mustard, and topped with a pound (give or take) of Parmesan cheese.  It was so wonderfully delicious that I simply had to try and duplicate it at home.

And after tweaking the ingredients a bit, now you can try it at home as well.  It's not an exact clone ... I increased what I think was the amount of quinoa used, and subbed Parmesan-reggiano cheese for ordinary Parmesan  ... p-r cheese has a slightly nuttier (in a good way) flavor that compliments the kale well.

To speed up the salad-making, start up the water.  While waiting for it to boil and then for the quinoa to cook, slice up the kale and halve the grapes.  Let the quinoa drain and cool while you julienne the lemon peel and squeeze the lemon.

TIP ALERTS!  I've stated this all before but they are so important that I need to repeat myself yet again, Dear Reader:  unless the label specifically states that it is pre-rinsed, thoroughly rinse the quinoa before cooking, in order to remove its bitter, soapy-tasting coating.   And since quinoa soaks up and retains water like a sponge, spend a few extra minutes after cooking to thoroughly drain the quinoa.  A quick fork-fluff and its perfect.  You're welcome.

Kale and Quinoa Salad
Note:  salad and dressing can be assembled separately and stored, covered, up to 2 days in the fridge.  When ready to serve, plate salad, whisk and drizzle dressing over salad, then top with grated cheese.
Yield:   2 large or 4 side servings

1/3 cup uncooked quinoa, thoroughly rinsed
1 cup water
6 cups kale, tough stems removed and cut into 1/2" wide slices
1  cup red seedless grapes, halved
1/3 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 medium-sized red pepper, finely diced
1 Tbl.  thinly julienned lemon peel
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbl. honey
 Tbl. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
2 Tbl. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (or Parmesan) cheese

 Boil water in a 1 quart saucepan over high heat.  Add quinoa, cover and reduce heat to a simmer.  Continue to simmer for 12 minutes.  Transfer quinoa to a strainer; let drain and cool for 10 minutes.

 Meanwhile, place kale in a large salad bowl.  Fluff quinoa with a fork, then add to kale and toss gently.  Divide kale-quinoa mixture into 2 main-size bowls or 4 side-salad bowls.   Sprinkle evenly with grapes, sunflower seeds, diced red pepper and lemon peel.  Set aside.

Whisk together oil, honey, mustard, garlic powder, salt, pepper and lemon juice.  Pour over salads.  Top evenly with Parmesan-reggiano cheese.

Serve immediately.

This recipe has been submitted to No Croutons Required, a monthly linkup event, alternatively hosted by Tinned Tomatoes and (this month) by Lisa's  Kitchen.


Lisa Turner said…
This is better than cheesecake! Love the combination of flavors here. Thanks for sharing with NCR.