Nutritious quinoa makes for a flavor-packed salad with anise-flavored fennel, savory rotisserie, and sweet grapes that is tossed with a honey-dijon dressing and finished with tender pine nuts. This healthy quinoa salad can serve as a main or side dish and can be served at any temperature.
Today my oldest baby girl turns NINE – half-way to adulthood and this mommy is UNWELL. She was so excited to go to school today and cupcakes were prepared last evening to bring for both her class and her soccer team. Gifts were opened before school because, patience is hard and birthdays are exciting!
This week has been as busy as all the rest and I managed to get into the kitchen on Tuesday evening to make this recipe. The cooler temperatures this time of year have me lusting for comfort food and fennel is the cooler weather ingredient that makes this recipe one healthy fall comfort food delight!
ROLL CALL FOR THIS RECIPE
- Multi-Purpose Dish: This healthy meal can be just that — a meal — or it can double as the perfect side dish!
- Healthy: It might be true, healthy food doesn’t get more delicious than this! My family was in agreement there!
- Leftover Fans: This recipe is just as good the next day after soaking in all of the salad dressing. Able to be served hot, cold, or at room temperature, it makes for the perfect leftovers or make-ahead meal.
KEY INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent choice for its antioxidants and monounsaturated fat content, in addition to its delicious, rich flavor, however avocado, sunflower, safflower, or another mild oil will work well.
- Lemon: A medium-to-large lemon should yield about 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice – a bit more or less, or using a concentrate is just fine. You may also zest the lemon before juicing for additional lemon flavor provided by lemon zest! Lime juice or a vinegar such as apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or white wine vinegar can be used in place of the lemon juice.
- Honey: Pure maple syrup or agave are great substitute here! Brown sugar can also be used in a pinch.
- Dijon Mustard: A whole grain or stone-ground mustard can be used here, as can honey mustard. You may also omit this ingredient entirely.
- Salt and Black Pepper: This little bit of salt helps cut the acid and brings out the sweetness of the honey and grapes. Use more or less to your liking, along with a few grinds of pepper.
- Quinoa: This edible seed comes in a variety of colors, most commoly red or white. Quinoa is unique in that it is a vegetarian complete protein. It cooks quickly and has a very mild nutty flavor and can be served at any temperature. If you prefer to substitute, wheat berries, farro, millet, couscous, barley, brown or wild rice are all good options.
- Grapes: Peak grape season is May through December so we are right in the middle of what is currenly a delicious run on grapes! Red or green seedless grapes work great here, but concord are not the best choice due to their seeds. Grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, mandarin oranges, diced apple, or diced pear would be great fruit substitutes if you don’t enjoy or have grapes available.
- Rotisserie Chicken: Any cooked chicken, chicken breast, or poultry will work great in this recipe (hello, leftovers!) however the chicken can be omitted or beans substituted in for a vegetarian option. I would recommend cannellini, pinto, or black beans that have been drained and rinsed well.
- Fennel: Consumed raw or cooked, this vegetable has a unique anise flavor and provides unique, comforting aromatics. While the recipe calls for the bulb only, be sure to save and use the entire fennel bulb, fennel stalks, and fennel fronds.
- Pine Nuts: These edible nuts harvested from pine trees are tender and softer than most nuts. They are most similar to cashews, however they are much smaller and make for a fun topping. Feel free to swap in cashews, pecans, walnuts, slivered or sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds, particularly as pine nuts can be quite expensive.
- This recipe is naturally dairy-free and gluten-free
- Easily made vegan by substituting for the honey and omitting the chicken and/or swapping in beans
- This recipe offers nearly 5 grams of fiber per serving and a nice balance of complex carbohydrate, lean protein, and unsaturated fat
How do you slice a fennel bulb?
Cut off the bottom (root) as well as any stalks, right where they turn from white to green. Remove any tough, outer layers and stand the bulb on the largest flat-bottomed surface. Slice the bulb in half and lay the half of bulb flat on the cutting board, largest flat side down, and thinly slice.
What’s the difference between a dressing and a vinaigrette?
Dressings truly have no “rules” whereas a vinaigrette is oil and vinegar-based. That said, replacing the lemon juice in this recipe with a vinegar would make it a vinaigrette.
What other fresh veggies or other ingredients could be added to this dish?
The sky is the limit with this salad! Any number of added ingredeints would work well, including red onion, green onion, fresh spinach, kalamata olives, black or green olives, green beans, yellow squash, red pepper, or most any cheese — goat cheese, blue cheese, Parmesan cheese, feta cheese, etc.
What makes quinoa so healthy?
In addition to being a good source of fiber, quinoa contains all 9 essential amino acids, including a higher amount of lysine than other grains and is a good source of protein.
Why does quinoa need to be rinsed before cooking?
Quinoa grows coated with a natural substance called saponin that naturally protects it from fungus and pests. Simply place uncooked quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cold running water for 1-2 minutes before proceeding with cooking. While not harmful to consume, saponin can give off a bitter, soap-like flavor if not removed before cooking.
Can you freeze leftover cooked quinoa?
Absolutely, and quinoa freezes exceptionally well for up to a year. Cool completely before storing in a bag or tupperware. All to thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
VARIATIONS, STORAGE, and TIPS
- Store leftovers in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days
- Consider doubling the dressing recipe to drizzle over leftovers or to enjoy repurposed in other recipes!
- To increase your veggie intake, this salad can be served on a bed of baby spinach or a pile of iceberg lettuce of chopped romaine for that fun crunch! Or use sliced cucumbers to scoop up the salad like you would eay salsa on a chip – so fun!
- 6 Tbsp olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 cups cooked quinoa
- 2 cups grapes, halved
- 12 oz skinless rotisserie chicken, shredded or chopped
- 1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 1 oz pine nuts, toasted
- Combine all dressing ingredients in a mason jar with a fitted lid or small bowl and shake whisk to combine; set aside.
- Place quinoa in a large bowl and drizzle with half of the dressing; toss to coat.
- Add the grapes, rotisserie, and fennel and top with the remaining dressing; toss well and serve topped with pine nuts.
You will need 1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa and 3 cups of water to make 4 cups of cooked quinoa
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1/6 recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 476Total Fat: 26.5gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22.5gCholesterol: 40mgSodium: 596mgCarbohydrates: 44.2gFiber: 4.8gSugar: 15.8gProtein: 16.8g
Love quinoa? There’s endless ways to enjoy!
- Baked Quinoa and Chicken Parmesan
- BBQ Chicken Quinoa Bowls
- Black Bean and Quinoa Veggie Burgers
- Chicken Tikka Masala Quinoa Bowls with Cilantro-Lime Crema
- Turkey Taco Quinoa Skillet
- Italian Sausage and Quinoa Soup
- Crock Pot Chicken Enchilada Quinoa