I’ll be honest, I really, really don’t like winter. I know that we are supposed to make the most with what each season gives but that is oh so hard when all I want to do is wear sweatpants and ten layers of sweaters and hibernate under a pile of blankets until daylight savings. I’ve been sleeping in a lot lately too, which is something I really don’t like. Generally my eyes enthusiastically burst open at the crack of dawn and by 6:30 I’ve showered and have a hearty breakfast in the works. Now it’s just a never-ending series of snooze-button pressings until the sheer embarrassment that I’m still in bed at 8:00 forces me into a wobbly standing position. Like I said, I really don’t like winter.
Over the weekend I went to the farmers market for the first time since mid-December. With memories of Christmas cheer, the hustle and the bustle to stock up on handmade crafts and Brussels sprouts stalks for the holiday table, I set out in the hopes of perhaps snagging some winter greens ore maybe even some pretty purple cauliflower. However, I arrived and saw almost nothing but mounds of potatoes and turnips. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with those items but at this point in winter, I am getting just a wee bit sick of potatoes. At this point, I just want a little freshness.
Even the tiniest of hints.
I’m not asking for a sun-ripened tomato here, just something to let me know that the sun will be back around soon.
So after a miniature sulking session I decided that I would not give up. I would embrace winter, work alongside and maybe, just maybe, we could get through this thing together. With a little stroke of inspiration I scrounged up a hodgepodge of ingredients and concocted a winter salad that was able to bring some life back to my palette.
It’s a menagerie of root veg, oranges, salty olives, crunchy celery, and rich avocado, tossed atop a bed of quinoa and dressed with refreshing citrus vinaigrette. It’s invigorating in flavor the way the saltiness and sweetness seem to complement each other so well. You eat it thinking that it’s almost so wrong that it is totally and completely right. Olives and oranges? How would that work…trust me, it does.
If anything, this salad can at least bring a little brightness to the day just from its sheer autumnal and jewel toned hues: deep burgundy contrasted by the neon orange of the tangelo and rounded out with the limey pop of green from the avocado. Finally, a flurry of white goat’s cheese like a dusting of snow finished it off. This would be just as great on regular quinoa but the red quinoa seemed to enhance the “winter salad” feel. It comes together in as long as it takes to cook the quinoa and certainly is a nice break from all those potatoes.
Winter Quinoa Salad
A few notes on the ingredients…as much as I would like to say that I roasted my own beets, I was too lazy. Plus, the ones at the grocery store looked a little sad. Instead I used these organic vacuum-sealed beets and actually found their flavor to be quite comparable to fresh. Good to know. I also used Minneola tangelos for their tart grapefruity flavor but navel oranges or even blood oranges would be fine. Finally, if you want to make this ahead of time, toss the quinoa, beets, oranges, olives, and celery with the vinaigrette and refrigerate and wait until serving to top with the avocado and goat cheese. It tastes best at room temperature.
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
5 baby beets, sliced (if you are cooking fresh beets here are cooking instructions)
2 Minneola tangelo oranges, zested, segmented, and juices reserved
¼ cup kalamata olives, quartered
1 rib celery, diced
½ avocado, diced
goat cheese crumbles, to serve
¼ cup fresh orange juice, reserved from oranges
¼ tsp orange zest
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
Prepare the quinoa according to the package instructions. While that is cooking, prepare the beets, oranges, olives, celery, avocado, and goat cheese and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and whisk until combined.
When the quinoa is finished, pour it into a bowl and let sit for about 5 minutes to cool some. Add about ¾ of the dressing ad toss to combine. Add the beets, orange segments, olives and celery and mix. Spoon into serving bowls and top with the avocado and the goat cheese and a drizzle of the remaining dressing.