It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to plan my Thanksgiving dinner. Wasn’t it just summer? When you live in a balmy climate the seasonal changes aren’t as apparent and fall and winter seem to show up unannounced other than the shortened days. But the calendar says it’s November, as does much of the food in the market, so I’m dedicating my time to creating new recipes for the annual feast.
This first recipe is a keeper and may become part of every Thanksgiving in my home. Autumn Quinoa Salad, as I’ve named it, celebrates the seasonal abundance of pomegranates, cranberries and pecans. All foods that seem to taste best when there’s a crisp bite to the air. Especially when combined into one dish. Tossed into quinoa with a bright orange dressing it’s the perfect foil for the starchy carb and fat laden side dishes that line the table. Since healthy eating takes a holiday on this holiday, providing a nutritious side dish that eats like a sumptuous bite of decadence is key in my mind.
I even tested it out on the family. Hubby ate two bowlfuls. My younger son commented that he would order this in a restaurant. Thanksgiving Winner!
Or any other night, too!
Here are some helpful chef’s tips:
- This can be made a day ahead to free up your time on Thanksgiving. I do suggest adding the toasted pecans within an hour of serving as they soften overnight when tossed in the dressing. Still delicious but not as crunchy.
- I used rosé wine vinegar that I bought at Costco (see photo below). It’s also available online. Otherwise, use white balsamic vinegar. You want a slightly sweet vinegar with a mild acid bite but not a heavy, syrupy vinegar like a classic red balsamic.
- This is a high acid to oil dressing on purpose. It’s bright and delicious.
- This makes enough for a large gathering. At least 12-14 as a side dish. Cut the recipe in half for a smaller crowd.
- I love pecans in this mix but feel free to use nuts of choice. Slivered almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts would all work. Just make sure to toast them first for extra crunch and flavor.
- I opted for sliced green onions for a milder onion bite. Slice them very thin.
- Tri-color quinoa is available at Trader Joe’s. I really like the nutty taste of this mix. I cooked the quinoa in a rice cooker, for the first time, and loved the results. Much fluffier than on the stovetop. I’m sure multicooker pots would work well, too.
- Quinoa is gluten free so this side dish is good for vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free guests.
Look for another Thanksgiving recipe next week. Okay gotta get back in my kitchen!
Autumn Quinoa Salad for Thanksgiving
Serves 12-14 as a side dish
6 cups cooked and cooled (room temperature is fine) tricolor quinoa*
1 1/4 cups dried cranberries
1 1/4 cups toasted pecan halves, broken in half longwise
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup sliced green onions
3 T chopped fresh dill
Orange shallot Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Salt to taste.
Toppings for serving (optional)
Toasted pecan halves, intact
Make the dressing before prepping other ingredients to allow flavors to develop.
Toast the pecans, slice the green onions and de-seed the pomegranate while cooking and cooling the quinoa.
Put the cooked and cooled quinoa in a very large mixing bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix until evenly distributed throughout the quinoa. Drizzle in 3/4 of the dressing and stir up well. Taste. Add more dressing as desired. Season with more salt to taste.
If making ahead store in a covered container in the refrigerator. If serving right away plate in a serving dish.
Decorate with additional toppings as desired.
Orange Shallot Vinaigrette
6 T rosé wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 T fresh orange zest
1 T finely chopped shallots
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2/3 cup good quality olive oil
In a mixing bowl whisk the salt into the vinegar and orange juice until dissolved.
Stir in the other ingredients except the olive oil until combined.
Slowly whisk in the olive oil unto combine.
Let it rest on the counter while preparing other ingredients or make ahead and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and whisk up before mixing into the quinoa.
*2 cups raw quinoa made 7 1/2 cups cooked quinoa in my rice cooker. This is why I didn’t specify dried quinoa in the recipe. Different quinoa and cooking variations will yield different amounts of quinoa.