Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries

Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser

Lately the questions, "What can the baby eat?" and "What will my toddlers eat with minimal complaining?" seem to drive my meal planning. I feel like I've lost a bit of my joy in the kitchen. I still love cooking, of course, and I'm grateful I even have the luxury of choice in what I make for dinner. But I've found myself stuck in what's practical. I miss asking, "What can I make that nourishes body and soul? What can I make that delights?"

This dish is an answer to those questions. It's nourishing for body and soul, and it's one of my new favorite salads. It's got a slight kick from the arugula and Dijon but then richness from the goat cheese and sweetness from the cherries. Hearty, healthy, sweet, and savory.

And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food’…And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
— (Genesis 1:29-31)

I generally serve my kids at least a version of what we eat for dinner, but my twins often do better eating the components of a dish separated. For this one, I'll give them a scoop of plain quinoa, a handful of walnuts and dried cherries, and then add chicken or whatever else to their plates. That way, they try new foods and eat what we eat, but they also have something a little more palatable. (I don't know if that's the right way to feed toddlers. I could be doing it all wrong, but hey, we're all just figuring this out as we go, right?)

It's easy to get bogged down in the utilitarian that we forget the beauty of variety and the joy of cooking. After all, our God could have only provided the basics needed to keep us alive, but instead, he gave us thousands of foods with endless combinations. So every once in a while, regardless of how your kids eat, treat yourself to something you love, something that delights. After all, I think when we delight in God's good gifts, we can taste that the Giver himself is good. 

Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser

Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries
Yields 4 entree-sized portions

1 cup quinoa
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon honey
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crumbled goat cheese (optional)
Arugula or other salad greens (optional)

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under cold water. (Quinoa has a natural coating that can taste bitter or soapy, but you can get rid of this coating by rinsing it well.) Add the rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water to a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high, and bring the water to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 10-15 minutes. 

Remove the pot from the heat, and let it stand for about 5 minutes (keeping it covered!). Uncover and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set it aside to cool while you prep the dressing and other ingredients. 

For the dressing, in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid, add the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Cover and shake vigorously until all the ingredients are mixed well. 

In a medium bowl, add the cherries, walnuts, and rosemary. Add the cooled quinoa to the bowl, and stir everything together. Pour in about 1/4 cup of the dressing. Mix well. Add more dressing if desired, reserving some for serving. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste (I added about another ¼ teaspoon each of kosher salt and black pepper). 

Transfer the quinoa salad to a serving dish. Top with crumbled goat cheese, if using. Serve on its own or over arugula or other salad greens.* 

Drizzle each portion with some of the remaining dressing and garnish with fresh rosemary. Enjoy!

*Rather than serving the quinoa on top of greens, you can also add a few handfuls of arugula right into the quinoa mixture. Pour the rest of the salad dressing on it, and toss well. The arugula will wilt slightly with the dressing, so serve immediately.