Do you know that moment when you think of a brilliant dish? It's like something clicks and suddenly you know exactly what you want to create. Sometimes this happens when I'm exercising or watching tv or just sitting outside, staring at my plants. The latest idea that popped into my head was to create a cherry salad. Yea, I know, that doesn't sound so exciting. But given that I've been eating a ton of salads lately, to think of a brand new salad recipe was enough to get me excited for the next day's lunch. This cherry nectarine arugula salad with spiced pecans, toasted quinoa, and honey mustard and lime vinaigrette is the perfect summer salad. Throw on some roasted chicken or seared steak and you have yourself a fantastic healthy lunch!
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Whenever I make a vegetarian salad, I try to incorporate some sort of protein into the dish. Boiled eggs, roasted chickpeas, lentils, or quinoa are usually my top choice. To make today's cherry nectarine arugula salad a little different, I decided to toast my quinoa.
Quinoa has a very soft texture when boiled. Sometimes it's hard to tell if you're even eating quinoa because it just blends in with the other salad ingredients. I wanted to get more a crunch so we're going to prepare the grains a little differently. First, soak the quinoa for 20 minutes in room temperature water and give it a good rinse to remove any impurities. Drain the quinoa but don't worry about drying it.
Heat a large saute pan over medium-low heat and add the quinoa. Continue to cook the quinoa until it starts to pop, this means the water is starting to evaporate. Keep stirring as it starts to turn golden brown. Once the quinoa smells nutty and is a beautiful brown, it's ready.
Meanwhile, make the spiced pecans by toasting them with brown sugar, cinnamon, and chile powder. Let them cool and set aside while you prepare the fresh fruits. Pit and half the cherries and slice the nectarines. I used bing cherries but feel free to swap them out for any other variety.
Make the honey mustard and lime dressing by blending together the ingredients until smooth. This dressing is basically a honey mustard recipe but with lime instead of lemon. Assemble the salads, plating the arugula, sliced nectarines, fresh and dried cherries, shallots, spiced pecans, and toasted quinoa. Don't go too crazy on the quinoa because it can be a bit of a jaw workout.
This cherry nectarine arugula salad is actually quite simple but there are so many different flavors and textures in one bowl. The sweet cherries with the juicy nectarines, crunchy toasted quinoa, spiced pecans, bitter arugula, and dried cherries, all finished with a creamy honey mustard and lime dressing...it's so good! Now I just have to remember to make this salad whenever cherries and nectarines are in season!
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