OK, can you BELIEVE that we are already into the THIRD week of the new year? Craziness!
What’s not craziness: this Arugula Quinoa Salad with Baked Pears and Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette! It is just plain lovely. But first, I can’t help but muse about the passage of time, and habits, and goals, because they are on my mind a lot lately during this quickly-ensuing January. Maybe they’ve been on your mind, too.
Time really does fly so quickly. The freshness of a new year eventually wears off. New year’s resolutions become less shiny and exciting – and consequently, less enticing to follow. The daily grind wears us down, tempts us to flake out on our goals.
We are all human, and we all slip up on our goals sometimes. I’ve realized that it’s important to remind myself that this is normal. As a recovering perfectionist who was once flat-out rigid in her self-discipline, I have learned the beauty of self-compassion, of giving myself grace when I slip up with habits and goals. The key to overall maintaining challenging endeavors, I have learned, is to remember:
When it comes to the habit of eating healthfully, I will never be perfect, but I am pretty damn good. And I have to give a lot of the credit to all of the incredibly delectable healthy meals this world – with all of its abundant diversity in produce and ancient grains and lean proteins and other nutritious yet flavorful goodies – allows us to make.
The longer I’ve had an interest in cooking and healthy eating, the more I’ve realized that I don’t have to sacrifice taste for healthfulness; in fact, the less and less I eat the processed food I used to think tasted so great, the more gross I find most of it to be when I do eat it. It often tastes fake, overdone: too sweet, too salty. When it comes to flavor, nature knows what it’s doing!
And today’s recipe has nature’s beautiful vibrant flavor in spades! I’m so pleased with the way this Arugula Quinoa Salad with Baked Pears and Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette turned out. It’s my current obsession; it’s so darn good! I don’t generally buy arugula, and I’ve never previously made a salad at home that incorporated quinoa. But I had a great arugula quinoa salad out at a restaurant this fall, and it stayed on my mind. I am LOVING the peppery arugula with the sweet-tart Meyer lemon vinaigrette, the crunchy walnuts, and the savory feta cheese. And the pears! The pears are a revelation! OMG, how have I not had baked pears on a salad before? Their unadulterated sweetness pairs so wonderfully with the other flavors of this salad. I seriously-seriously could eat this salad at every meal right now – it’s that good!
I was concerned when baking the pears, which were quite firm still, that they would not come out with much flavor, but they did. In fact, I realized that I preferred using firm pears to the ripe ones I generally use for this purpose. Ripe pears run the risk of turning mushy when they are baked. They will still taste good, but you may experience difficulty keeping them intact; they won’t look as pretty on your salad. A firm pear requires a longer roasting time (mine took 35 minutes for this recipe), but they will maintain form even when softened enough by cooking to pierce easily with a fork.
If you’ve never heard of Meyer lemons and are wondering what the heck they are: they are lemons that are smaller and have a brighter yellow rind and inside fruit than the conventional lemon we are all used to do. They also have a sweeter and more vibrant flavor. And they are currently in season! But if you can’t find them in your grocery store, you can definitely substitute regular lemons for them.
Regarding the vinaigrette: this dressing recipe makes quite a bit of dressing, more than you will need. I like to make larger portions of dressing because I like being able to liberally pour it onto my salad and having extra that I can use later. This vinaigrette will store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week. It may solidify there, but you can easily nuke it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to bring it back to room temperature.
Alright, it’s time: on to the recipe!
-2 bosc pears
-1 tbs. coconut oil, melted
-4 loosely-packed cups arugula (about 2/3 of a 5-ounce package)
-1 cup cooked white quinoa
-3/4 cup walnuts
-1/2 cup feta cheese
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette:
-1/2 cup + 2 tbs. olive oil
-1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (about two to three lemons’ worth)
-2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
-1 tbs. honey
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/4 tsp. ground coriander
-1/4 tsp. garlic powder
-Fresh-ground pepper – several turns of the pepper mill
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the skin from the pears using a vegetable peeler. Chop the stem off of each pear, then cut each in half lengthwise and cut out the inner stem and core. Cut each half lengthwise into smaller slices, then add to a baking dish and drizzle with the coconut oil. Let bake for 10 minutes, then stir and let bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the pears being used. Check again. Very ripe pears should only need 15 minutes, while firm pears can take at least 35 minutes. Keep checking and stirring periodically. Once you know the pears are ready (when you can easily pierce them with a fork), remove them from the oven and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the arugula, quinoa, walnuts, and feta cheese.
To a Mason jar or similar container with a lid, add the vinaigrette ingredients and shake vigorously until well combined.
When ready to serve, top portions of the salad with the baked pear slices and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Then enjoy! Makes two to three entrée-sized portions.