See that salad? I just ate leftovers for breakfast. After my annual too-many potato chips session at the lake with my family, I’m craving fresh, bright, satisfyingly crunchy things. Surely I am not the only one!
I really want to tell you all about Oklahoma, and how the trees shrink into broccoli florets and the dirt turns red on that familiar drive south on I-35. I want to tell you about meeting my newest cousin and how she let me hold her for over an hour (maybe I hogged her a bit). And how extra-cute Cookie is after a few days apart. She’s snuggled up under my right elbow now.
I just got the manuscript back for my cookbook, so I have a busy week of editing and drinking too much coffee ahead of me. I can finally see the finish line. I’m excited to wrap it all up and get back to hanging out with you guys in the comments and on Instagram. I’ve really been missing you.
Anyway, this salad is inspired by one that I reached for at Trader Joe’s a couple of weeks ago. They call it the “Mega Crunchy Salad with a Bite.” I grabbed one of the last ones before they closed, so it wasn’t quite as crunchy as it should have been, but I recognized the potential.
Here is my version of the Trader Joe’s salad, which is not a dead ringer, but close. My salad features chopped romaine, radishes, carrots, toasty sunflower seeds, quinoa and dried cranberries.
This salad is a big, colorful bowl of healthy, crunchy goodness. It packs great for lunch, if you just store the zippy cilantro-lime dressing separately. Salads are pretty much all I want to eat this time of year, so I’ll be back with more salads soon.
Watch How to Make Perfectly Fluffy Quinoa
Mega Crunchy Romaine Salad with Quinoa
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 salads
- Category: Salad
This irresistible salad is modeled after Trader Joe’s “Mega Crunchy Salad with a Bite.” It’s light but filling, healthy, and bursting with fresh flavors. This salad packs great for later; just store the dressing separately and toss just before serving. Recipe yields 4 medium-sized salads.
- ⅔ cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
- 1 ⅓ cups water
- ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
- ½ teaspoon olive oil
- 1 small head of romaine (about 11 ounces) or one 5-to-6-ounce bag of romaine, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup shredded carrots (I used 2 large carrots, turned into ribbons with a julienne peeler and roughly chopped)
- 1 cup chopped cabbage (green or purple) or broccoli slaw
- ½ cup chopped radishes
- ½ cup dried cranberries
Zippy cilantro dressing
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lime juice (about 2 medium limes)
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- ¼ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro
- 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
- 2 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder or regular chili powder
- To cook the quinoa: Combine the quinoa and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat a bit to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, about 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat as time goes on to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Remove the pot from heat, cover, and let the quinoa steam for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and set aside to cool.
- To toast the sunflower seeds: Combine the sunflower seeds and olive oil in a medium skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently (careful, they’ll burn), until the seeds are fragrant and starting to turn lightly golden on the edges. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- In a large serving bowl, combine the prepared romaine, carrots, cabbage, radishes and cranberries. Once the quinoa and sunflower seeds have cooled, add them to the bowl as well.
- To prepare the dressing: In a blender or small food processor, combine all of the ingredients and blend well, pausing to scrape down the sides as necessary. Taste, and adjust as necessary—it should be zippy, but if it’s overwhelmingly tart, add a bit more honey. If you’d like a little more kick, add another ¼ teaspoon chili powder.
- If you’ll be serving the salad all at once, drizzle in enough dressing to lightly coat the salad once tossed (you might not use all of it), and toss to combine. If you intend to have leftovers, store the salad separately from the dressing, and toss just before serving.
Make it vegan: Use maple syrup instead of honey.
Change it up: This salad is really flexible. You could use your greens of choice instead of romaine (if using kale, which will hold up better to the dressing, be sure to remove the tough ribs and massage it before adding it to the bowl). You can also change up the chopped veggie components—you need about 2 ½ cups total.