Fruity, Nutty & Veggie Quinoa Salad

Turns out, not everyone cares for the earthy taste and pebbly texture of quinoa. It has been called a "Dickensian gruel", "a chore to chew" and so on. Truth is, this faux grain can leave you wondering what all the fuss is about until of course, you make this salad! For quinoa to be broadly appealing, it needs to be met with stronger flavours which is just what the dressing in this recipe offers. If you have a wicked sweet tooth like me, the fruity additions will hit all the right spots.

Fruity, Nutty & Veggie Quinoa Salad
(Based on Giada's recipe)
Serves 6

For the salad..

1 1/4 cups quinoa (You may use half millet and half quinoa to cut down cost)
2 cups low sodium vegan broth or water
1 large eggplant, cubed (In the winter, substitute with sweet potato or butternut squash)
1 big dessert apple, chopped (Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, Fuji, Gala)
3/4 cup pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped 
1/2 cup unsweetened dried cranberries, cherries or currants
3-4 cups chopped kale 
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the vinaigrette
1/2 cup, finely chopped onions
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Film a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Toss the eggplant or veggies of choice with 3 Tbsp. oil, salt and pepper and roast until beautifully browned, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. 
Place the quinoa and millet (if using) in a fine mesh sieve and wash well under running water. Transfer into a pot with the broth or water. Cook covered on medium low until the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender. Turn off heat, let it cool and fluff with a fork.
Whisk the ingredients for the vinaigrette until well blended. Throw in the apples to prevent browning.
To assemble, dump the cooked quinoa into a large bowl. Tip in the dried fruit, nuts, roasted vegetables, kale and vinaigrette. Toss well to combine. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold.