Quinoa Salad with Cherries, Almonds, Celery, and Pecorino Recipe | Pamela Salzman & Recipes Skip to content

Quinoa Salad with Cherries, Almonds, Celery, and Pecorino Recipe

This is one of my favorite salad recipes that I don’t make very often because cherries are in season for 5 minutes a year! It follows a classic formula that I love which is a green + a grain + a seasonal fruit + a cheese + a nut or seed.  It’s simple and easy to switch up.  I usually opt for arugula with fruit since the peppery greens balance the sweetness of the fruit, but I know arugula is not everyone’s favorite and takes some getting used to for kids. I love this salad for a main course lunch or dinner or to bring to a potluck (just bring the dressing in a jar and toss with the salad right before serving.)

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • it’s flexible, of course!
  • contains protein, fat and fiber for a complete meal;
  • it’s a texture and flavor explosion;
  • it’s easy and you can take a few shortcuts like pre-washed greens and precooked quinoa (but make your own dressing – so much better than store-bought!)

 

Quinoa Salad Ingredients

  • Quinoa: is technically a seed and one of the only non-animal foods that contains all eight essential amino acids. It has a delightful bouncy and springy texture and the flavor is nutty and quite pleasant. You can find different color varieties, which would all work well here.
  • Arugula: has a tart, peppery flavor. It’s part of the brassica family related to mustard greens and cabbage. 
  • Cherries: are in season from mid-April to late July. I recommend using a cherry pitter to make them easier to cut. 
  • Celery: adds a nice crunch and is rich in vitamins A, K, and C. 
  • Parsley: I love adding fresh herbs to salads. I prefer to use flat-leaf parsley here over curly. 
  • Almonds: I prefer using raw almonds for their high enzyme content. But almonds grown in the United States can actually be labeled “raw” even if they’ve been steamed or pasteurized, which is not technically raw. The word “raw” should really be replaced with “not roasted.” To buy truly raw almonds, seek out a source that sells imported raw almonds or buy directly from your local grower. 
  • Pecorino: is a sheep’s milk cheese. I like to buy a wedge and shave it with a vegetable peeler. 
  • Lemon juice: use freshly squeezed lemon juice for best flavor. 
  • Orange juice: you can use store-bought orange juice or squeeze an orange since you only need 2 Tablespoons. 
  • Shallots: are part of the allium family. I like using them in salad dressings because they are milder than regular onions. You can also use them in recipes that only call for a small amount of onion. 
  • Maple syrup: look for a pure maple syrup without any added flavors or additives. Or use honey instead. 
  • Olive oil: use an unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil for best flavor. 

How to Make Quinoa Salad with Cherries, Almonds, Celery, and Pecorino

  1. Place the quinoa and 1 3/4 cups of water in a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Allow to sit, covered, off the heat for at least 10 minutes, but longer, if possible. Transfer to a serving bowl and fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool. 
  2. Add the arugula, cherries, celery, parsley, almonds, and pecorino, if using, to the quinoa. 
  3. Prepare the dressing: combine all the dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake until emulsified or whisk in a bowl. 
  4. Pour enough dressing over the salad to coat everything lightly. Add more as needed. 

Tips for Making Quinoa Salad with Cherries, Almonds, Celery, and Pecorino

  • Toast the almonds in a skillet with a smidge of olive oil and a pinch of salt. 
  • Use a cherry pitter to easily pit cherries. Here’s the one I used.
  • Allow quinoa to cool, if you can, and fluff with a fork before tossing salad together so it’s not clumpy. You can make the quinoa several days in advance. 
  • You can make this vinaigrette several days in advance or even freeze it!

Substitutions for Quinoa Salad with Cherries, Almonds, Celery, and Pecorino

  • Quinoa: another grain such as bulgur or farro would work well here. Or even frozen/defrosted cauliflower rice.
  • Arugula: spinach, romaine or a mix of greens with thinly sliced red cabbage.
  • Cherries: strawberries, diced nectarines, or quartered figs
  • Pecorino: Parmesan, feta (Violife has divine vegan feta), goat cheese or omit
  • Almonds: pine nuts, toasted sunflower seeds or even crispy chickpeas – I like a little crunch.

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Quinoa Salad with Cherries, Almonds, Celery, and Pecorino
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 4 cups lightly packed arugula leaves
  • 2 cups cherries, pitted and quartered
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • ½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems, chopped
  • ⅓ cup raw almonds, toasted, chopped
  • Pecorino, shaved with a vegetable peeler (about ½ cup shaved pieces)
  • Dressing:
  • 3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup or raw honey
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Place the quinoa and 1¾ cups of water in a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Allow to sit, covered, off the heat for at least 10 minutes, but longer, if possible. Transfer to a serving bowl and fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool.
  2. Add the arugula, cherries, celery, parsley, almonds, and pecorino, if using, to the quinoa.
  3. Prepare the dressing: combine all the dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake until emulsified or whisk in a bowl.
  4. Pour enough dressing over the salad to coat everything lightly. Add more as needed.
Notes
Toast almonds in a skillet with a smidge of olive oil and a pinch of salt. For a nut-free option, use toasted sunflower seeds.

 

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I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

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