Lunch today is a recreation of the kale, date, almond and quinoa salad I had when we were staying in Palm Springs at the Ace hotel. I had their kale, date, almond and quinoa salad every day for lunch when we were there. I never usually get the same thing twice, especially when we’re in a place for such a short time, but I couldn’t help myself. Over the days I scribbled notes of how I’d recreate it and on the last day, after a couple of cocktails gave me courage, I asked the chef what went into the salad and he shared the recipe.
As I’m writing this today, looking out onto our grey English garden, those days in Palm Springs feel a long way away. But thanks to the magic of food I can close my eyes and transport myself back to that poolside with each bite of this salad.
You’ll get plenty of protein from the quinoa and nuts but if you feel the need for cheese, you could add some salty Feta.
Yes this salad contains some very goody-two-shoes ingredients but the flavours are far from virtuous punishment. And really that is the key to eating well that I feel a lot of healthy recipes miss. They have to TASTE good as well as being good for you, otherwise you’ll be face first into a chocolate bar straight after. Good food is all about texture and flavours being balanced. Make this salad and you’ll taste what I mean. I explain all my tips for maxing out flavour here.
Ingredients to make enough kale, date, almond and quinoa salad for 2 servings:
1 cup (or around 140g) of cooked quinoa – around a third of a cup cooked with two thirds of a cup of water will give you a cup of cooked quinoa
3-4 Medjool dates, stone removed and ripped into quarters
1 bundle of kale (Dino in the US, Cavolo Nero in the UK)
2 tablespoons either flaked raw almonds or roughly chopped Marcona almonds. Marcona are best.
a pinch or two of of Maldon sea salt flakes
2-3 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon good olive oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Optional – crumbled soft goats cheese or feta
To make the kale, date, almond and quinoa salad:
1. Pop your almonds into a dry pan to toast for a couple of minutes. This wakes them up flavour-wise.
2. Cook your quinoa by toasting it in a dry saucepan with no oil for about a minute. Shake it until it smells toasty. Then add the water and simmer with a lid on for around 20 minutes until it is fluffy and starting to look translucent in the middle with an opaque ring around the edge. I usually cook a big batch every week or two and freeze it in individual servings or keep it in the fridge for speedy lunches and dinners.
3. Wash your kale then, holding the bunch by the stalk end, cut the leaves across into the finest strips you can.
4. Put your kale into a large bowl with the vinegar and a pinch of salt and then use your hands to ‘massage’ it. Basically squeeze it until it reduces in volume and goes greener. This breaks down the cell walls making it easier to chew and digest. Always handy with raw greens. Also the vinegar de-kales the flavour a bit.
5. Toss your cooked quinoa with your massaged kale along with the stoned dates, the toasted almonds, olive oil and black pepper. Give it a good toss and then taste it. Be sure to get some date and kale in your mouth so you can tell of the sweetness of the dates balances with vinegar, salt and kale flavour. Add more dates/vinegar/salt until you’re happy. I almost always add more vinegar so let loose with yours. Then serve. If you’re adding cheese, crumble it over just before serving.
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