Spinach & Quinoa Salad with Goat Cheese

by Shawnda on February 4, 2013

in Lighter & Healthier,Salads,Sides,Veggies & Starches

Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

We now have a 3 year old! A 3 year old who eats things like quinoa, kiwi, prosciutto, and even a bite of sushi now and then. The crazy thing is that I can distinctly remember the first time I tried each of those foods – because I was far, far older than 3. But the small town I grew up in didn’t have fancy grocery stores that carried “fancy” foods – and on the occasion that they did, they most definitely wouldn’t have fit into our family’s small budget.

Growing up, vegetables that didn’t come from our garden came from a can, which means I also can remember the first time I had fresh broccoli (with ranch dip!) and cauliflower (with ranch dip!) and even fresh spinach. And even better than ranch dip? The spinach was in salad-form, coated in the late 90’s-early 2000’s trendy warm bacon dressing.

I immediately came home to recreate that magical, fancy salad for my family… only I didn’t wash the spinach well enough so I served my family a huge bowl of gritty spinach salad with warm bacon dressing. True story. One I have yet to live down. (Is that spinach? Did you wash it this time? IT WAS OVER 15 YEARS AGO!)

Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

And occasionally, I have this dream where I’m catering some gigantic, super special event and I realized that I forgot to wash the spinach that the President (or the Queen or Peyton Manning – the really important people) is about to eat. Another true story.

Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

My to-be sister-in-law brought this salad to a family get-together a couple of years ago and it has been one of my favorites ever since. It’s fresh spinach (triple-washed at the farm and then washed again at home!), quinoa (cooked and then chilled – so plan ahead), toasted pine nuts, and crumbled goat cheese tossed in a simple vinaigrette.

It’s as easy to make as it is to go back for seconds.

Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Goat Cheese

An easy salad with fresh spinach, quinoa, goat cheese, and pine nuts tossed in a simple vinaigrette.


  • For the salad
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 oz fresh baby spinach, chopped (half a bag or clam shell)
  • 4 oz goat cheese (about 1/3 of a log)
  • For the dressing
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped shallot
  • 1 Tbsp spicy brown or dijon mustard (I use Creole)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  1. Cook quinoa in water according to package directions.
  2. Spread the cooked quinoa on a plate or other shallow dish and refrigerate until completely cool, stirring once or twice if you're in a hurry.
  3. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts ~2 minutes and then shake the pan and heat for another minute.
  4. Transfer to a small plate and let cool.
  5. In a large bowl, add the chopped spinach, cold quinoa (it must be cold so it doesn't wilt the spinach), crumbled goat cheese, and cooled pine nuts.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, shallot, and mustard.
  7. Slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking and add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Before serving, toss the dressing with the salad and serve.
  9. Leftovers will keep a couple of days covered in the fridge.


Yields: 6 generous servings

Estimated time: 45 minutes



Field Greens with Spiced Walnuts and Goat Cheese

My contribution for this week’s Project Pastry Queen recipe is last week’s Project Pastry Queen recipe. The group is baking up Snow-Tipped Sand Tarts this week. But I’m suffering from the usual post-Thanksgiving food coma burn out so turning on the oven for 5 minutes to roast a small batch of spiced walnuts was really all I could take.

Which is why there are two salad posts in a row. And I can assure you, that has never, ever happened here :)

This salad was a super welcome change from the previous day’s road trip food and the calorie-dense spread of Thanksgiving #2. Fresh greens tossed with a standard balsamic vinaigrette and topped with cranberries and spiced walnut-crusted goat cheese rounds. Fresh. Light. And not a block of cream cheese or slice of pie in sight.

You can get the recipe for the spiced walnuts (or pecans, as the original recipe called for), balsamic vinaigrette, and goat cheese rounds over at A Gilt Nutmeg.



I woke up today with a jumbo-sized carb hangover. And you might have, too. Unless you were born with willpower. And then, well, I’m totally jealous.

Last night, barely 30 minutes after I crammed the last load of dishes into the dishwasher and swore off cooking forever, I was in the kitchen, toasting pine nuts and whipping up dressing so we could have a light lunch at home before heading out. Today is a travel day for us. 6 hours in the car with a cranky toddler on our way to Thanksgiving #2. Now who’s jealous :)

Kale with Pine Nuts and garlic Vinaigrette

Our favorite little pizza place has a house vinaigrette that is for the garlic lover. Not liker. Lover. It’s not the salad dressing you order on a date. Unless your date is completely awesome and orders it for himself. And then you can go for it! It’s great on most salads, from the “plain romaine” that Jason prefers, to the mixed baby greens that Locatelli’s serves. But for the last month, I’ve been in love with the simple combination of Kale, pine nuts, and Parmesan, thank to Nancy.

The garlic flavor in the dressing will only intensify overnight. I try to make it ahead of time when I can but it’s not necessary.

Kale with Pine Nuts and Garlic Vinaigrette

Kale, parmesan, and pine nuts topped with a tangy vinaigrette that's perfect for the garlic lover.


  • For the vinaigrette:
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan (~1 oz)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • For the salad:
  • 1 bunch Kale, rinsed and dried
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • Parmesan, shaved (for garnish)


  1. Add lemon juice, white wine vinegar, a pinch of salt, and black pepper to your blender and turn on, streaming in the oil slowly.
  2. Turn off the blender and add the garlic and cheese. Blend another 10-15 seconds.
  3. Heat a dry non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add the pine nuts.
  4. Toast for 4-5 minutes, stirring once or twice until sides are golden brown.
  5. Coarsely chop kale and add to a large bowl.
  6. Lightly toss with a few tablespoons of dressing and garnish with toasted pine nuts and shaved parmesan.


Yields: 4 servings

Source: Dressing Inspired by Locatelli's Pizza, Salad by A Communal Table

Estimated time: 20 minutes