As days and nights in New England get colder, the garden's bounty changes color and the earth appears to be a treasure chest of jewel-toned vegetables. The nights are cold enough to grow emerald colored kale--a crop that seems to taste better after a light frost licks its leaves. The lovely foliage and flowers of the sweet potato vine enjoyed all summer have brilliant tourmaline root tubers just beneath the soil's surface. Ruby red pomegranates begin showing up on supermarket shelves in October and if stained hands are bothersome, small containers of seeds are now readily available in the produce department of many supermarkets. Perhaps, the greatest harbinger of autumn, however, is America's abundant and precious garnet colored apple crop. Put all these gemstones together, and a nutritionally rich, concentration of harvest wealth appears. Toss together with an oh so slightly sweetened dressing, a handful of chopped nuts for texture variety, and a smooth, creamy goat cheese. In minutes, a salad fit for serving royalty is ready. Build a fire, pour some wine and wrap yourself in a gorgeous WOOL PLAID BLANKET, and eat under a harvest moon filled sky.
Note bene: Cooking the quinoa in chicken stock and serving the salad with steak, shrimp, or chicken slices makes a complete meal. Only a thick syrupy balsamic will have the balanced sweetness necessary for the outcome of this dish. An aged balsamic such TERRE EXOTIQUE BALSAMIC VINEGAR AGED 10 YEARS is perfect, but it is also possible to make a balsamic glaze: bring 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar to a boil on the stovetop, and then reduce to low. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to half its volume. Covered, it will last a week. Placing the goat cheese in the freezer for 15 minutes makes the cheese easy to crumble.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Boil the quinoa according to directions. Set aside.
3. Poke holes in the sweet potatoes and place in the microwave. Cook for 3 minutes.
4. Cut the ends off the potatoes and dice into 1/2" pieces and place on a half sheet baking pan. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and place in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn potatoes over. Return to the oven and roast until the potatoes are caramelized and brown on all sides, about 5 to 10 minutes longer.
5. Remove the tough ribs from the kale leaves. Fold big leafs in half and then roll like a cigar. Chiffonade the leaves in 1/8 inch pieces. The kale should look like thin ribbons.
6. Place the kale in a large serving bowl. Pour the quinoa into the kale and gently toss to combine.
7. In a small bowl, whisk together the syrupy balsamic vinegar and mustard. Slowly add the the olive oil to make an emulsion. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
8. Sprinkle the sweet potatoes, goat cheese, almonds, pomegranate seeds, and apples over the kale. Gently toss to combine.
9. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine.
10. Let the salad sit for at least 15 minutes before serving (this softens the kale and makes the texture more pleasant).
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 head curly kale
1 bunch flat leaf kale
3 ounces mild goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 Honeycrisp apple, cored & chopped 1/2" pieces
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil such as KIKLOS
2 tablespoons syrupy balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper