SOS Blueberries: Kale and Quinoa Salad with Fresh Blueberry Vinaigrette

This past weekend, the HH and I made the trek back to Montreal to help fête my dad for his 90th birthday.  Nope, that’s not a typo–he turned 90 last week! We held a little party at his favorite restaurant, where my father, his girlfriend (a mere babe at 78 years old), my two sisters and their beaux along with the HH and I were all in attendance. Apart from asking us all to speak a little more loudly than we would otherwise, my dad has no special requests for someone who’s survived nine decades (unless you count asking me to read the menu for him, since he’d forgotten his reading glasses at home).  After the presents, the songs and the speeches, we toasted his good  health–and wished him another decade or two of good health.  😀

[Dad and me at the dinner table.  Why is my hand up in the air, you wonder? Me, too. ]

I had no worries about the meal, since the restaurant is always extremely accommodating for anyone with dietary restrictions.  What did worry me, however, was the 6-hour drive across Highway 401.  No matter how much the provincial rest stops are renovated to include hip eateries like “Le Croissant” or how well stocked are the modern vending machines, I can never find anything to eat on the road.  As a result, we never leave town without a fully stocked cooler, and that way I know I’ll enjoy a delicious homemade lunch while the HH munches on his rubbery turkey club picked up at the Tim Horton’s en route.  This time round, I brought two types of salad leftovers, which I enjoyed immensely. (Aside from today’s recipe, the other salad was a fabulous variation on my mock tuna salad–recipe on the DDD Facebook page, here). Unlike the route to Montreal (or the course of true love), however, the path to this salad did not run smooth.

For my second submission to this month’s SOS Kitchen Challenge on blueberries, I knew I wanted a savory dish–and salad seemed an obvious choice.  My first attempt was a simple green salad topped with this stellar dressing.  But something was amiss; pairing that amazing dressing with plain ole greens felt sort of like going to the Oscars wearing a black strapless Oscar de la Renta gown and then pairing it with dayglo orange Reeboks (Oh, wait, Cybill Shepherd already did that).

[Does this salad look like Cybill Shepherd to you?]

So next I thought, how about a warm kale salad? I love buckwheat and–not sure what possessed me ont his one–I was certain the rustic flavor would pair well with the juicy sweetness of the berries.  I imagined a warm salad with barely wilted greens that would provide a perfect base for a creamy, tangy, purple dressing.

Um, nope.  What I got instead was a mushy, muted mess underscored with an overpowering nuttiness of buckwheat.  Ooops.

[It may look pretty on the outside, but it’s just mush inside.]

By the third try, it finally hit me: I like cooked kale, but I love raw kale.  And quinoa is the perfect grain as a base for just about any cold salad; why not combine the two? I knew that the mild toastiness of quinoa would work beautifully with the sassy dressing.  And so, I ventured one more attempt. . . .

And succeeded!

A fetching combination of textures, flavors and colors, this salad brings together the slight crunch and mild taste of raw kale with savory quinoa and the barely sweet tartness of blueberries.  Tomato adds a burst of bright color.  Once bathed in the dressing, the quinoa eventually takes on the hue and is transformed in the fridge into a smattering of miniature lavender pearls.  And because the kale is raw, it travels well–as I took full advantage this past weekend.

Oh–and as we all know, kale is über healthy, which means that if you partake of this salad, you may just be celebrating your own 90th birthday one day.

Mum, you know that kale is good for canines, too, right?  Maybe if you give us that salad we could live to 90, too–that’s, like, 630 in dog years!”

[Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. If you buy using these links, at no cost to you, I will earn a small commission from the sale.]

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  1. My dog absolutely loves kale, collard greens, cabbage… Mostly I give her the stems and she happily crunches away.

    • The Girls do, too! They particularly love the kale and avocado salad (recipe on the blog–I use a non-onion version when I give it to them!). I guess they must instinctively know there’s something good for them in the greens. 🙂

  2. Glad to hear you persisted, Ricki, because this salad sounds right up my alley! 🙂

  3. Happy Birthday to your dad! How splendid 🙂

    This salad sounds most lovely, as do all of yours 🙂

    Question for you – did you grow up speaking French or English? I am curious because I grew up speaking French in the French part of Switzerland – I kind of assumed you must have spoken French growing up in Quebec, but then remembered I knew bilingual Quebecois women in college who were anglophone and spoke English at home, but French at school, until switching to an English-speaking school in their teens. Hope you don’t mind the question 🙂

    • Thanks, Valerie! Re: the French question, I am an anglo who went to a French immersion school. I didn’t even begin to learn French until the 3rd grade, but I was considered bilingual when I left Quebec (back in 1978!). It’s been a long time since I used French regularly, and when I return to Montreal, I usually strike up a conversation first in French, but quickly have to say, “Plus lentement, s’il vous plait,” as I can no longer follow the lightning-fast Quebecois French! And your English is, obviously, perfect. 🙂

      • Ah, thank you for answering. You know, ironically, my French (despite being my first language) is not as good as my English at this point – especially when it comes to vocabulary and idioms – so sad.

        • I think that’s totally natural. My dad’s been in Canada for, oh, 65 years or so now, and sometimes he forgets how to say things in his first language. . . . if you don’t use it, it makes sense. (But not so sad–it just means you’re now exercising something different, right?) 🙂

  4. this looks delicious, ricki! kale plus quinoa equals YUM!

  5. Yum! So pretty too. I love kale, and I love blueberries, so why not? Kinda bummed that buckwheat didn’t work. I have some lonely kasha in my pantry that I need to use.

  6. Happy 90th birthday to your dad! He looks far younger than 90!

    • Thanks so much! I think so, too (he’s usually pegged at around 75). That’s what a life of healthy eating and daily exercise will do for you, I guess! 😉

  7. I did actually make a blueberry kale salad with tahini dressing for SOS this month but I haven’t had a chance to post it. I love your idea of mixing cooked quinoa with raw kale. I think I’d love that combination.


    p.s. I’m really happy to see a shot of your Dad with a big smile on his face. Please give him my Birthday best. I’m so glad you were able to celebrate with him last weekend.

    • Lisa, can’t wait to see your salad! I think you’d love this combo, too–somehow the mild quinoa and crunchy kale go so well together. And thanks for the good wishes for my dad–will pass them along! 🙂

  8. Courtney says

    Oh my goodness…happy birthday to your dad! How wonderful that you were able to celebrate with him. He looks amazing…I never would have guessed he was 90!


  9. Oh Ricki, I was laughing too hard to really follow the rest of the post (why oh why was your arm up?). But I pulled myself together so I could read the recipe. What an amazing salad! And I am so impressed by your Dad. He’s the one who got up for the photo! You stayed in your seat while he bent over for the photo! That’s impressive. I’m going to make myself a kale salad tomorrow!

    • Ha, ha! Glad you like the arm up–who knows why?! And yes, my dad got up. . . I guess it’s not much, considering he still walks an hour a day–no wonder he’s 90!! 😉 I think you’ll like the salad–enjoy! 🙂

  10. As a child who grew up outside Toronto (Milliken Mills right near Steels, I can’t get over how close the 407 is to my old house) I made the trek to my grandparents house in Montreal way too many times as a child. I much preferred my route from Boston through Northern New Hampshire and Vermont to go visit them, until there was a moose on the side of the highway one day.

    Anyways, I must try this recipe with my wild blueberries growing on my property. That is if the dog doesn’t get them first.

    • Miriam, I’m sure I’d prefer the drive from New Hampshire to Montreal, too! 🙂 And how funny that your dog eats the blueberries!

  11. I cannot eat quinoa. Yes, it is true. So what can I substitute for in this wonderful sounding recipe?

    • No quinoa? And here I thought it was a non-allergenic food! Hmmmm. . . . how about millet? I bet even cooked rice would work (and, in a pinch, I’d just omit the grain. . . it will still taste yummy). 🙂

  12. I had a bunch of blueberries and kale that I needed to use up. So glad I found this recipe. It was delicious! I added roasted beets, currants, and jicama (just because), and topped my serving with a little goat cheese – delicious- but it was great before I made the additions! Thank you for the recipe!

  13. I can eat millet and rice. I used to eat quinoa without a problem but a few years ago I became allergic to it. This happened as it became very popular. I just read on the Elana’s Pantry site that Elana is allergic to quinoa as well as oats.

  14. How wonderful that your dad has recovered well from his recent illness to celebrate his 90th birthday – though I am sure he never had kale or blueberries in his regular salads 🙂 I have tried blueberry dressing on grilled zucchini salad and loved that – I am sure it would be great with kale

    • Thanks, Johanna! No, I don’t think my father has ever had kale–period! He does eat a salad every day, but it’s the (very) old fashioned kind with iceberg lettuce, cucumber, and tomato. But he has recovered fully–the cardiologist said he couldn’t see any evidence of a heart attack on the recent ECG! Pretty amazing.

  15. Didn’t realize you had just posted this. I had kale and quinoa to use up and googled for a recipe. How exciting to find yours which also included blueberries, having just picked up the first organic blueberries I’ve found at our market. I made it last night and it was delicious! Thanks for the recipe. Blessings.

  16. If at first you don’t succeed… what a brilliant epitomisation (did I just make that word up?) of that saying! Gotta love awesome genes! My grandparents are 82, 91, and 96, and all going strong 🙂

    Also, I have a photo of myself hugging my grandpa when my fist looks like it’s about the punch him in the fact 😛

    • Hannah, my, what great genes you have! (Why does that sound like a fairy tale suddenly?) 😉 How cool that you still have 3 grandparents, and all doing so well at awesome ages. And what a laugh about that photo!

  17. Happy birthday and congratulations to your father on celebrating his 90th year! I have to say that it is pretty nifty to read about an adventure to Montreal.

    I really enjoy your documenting the process towards a successful dish, so thank you for being so humble and honest about successes and slightly-less-than-successes. Not only does this salad sound like it kicks butt tastewise, but it also definitely kicks butt healthwise–quinoa, blueberries, and kale in a single plate? Heck yeah!

    • Thanks so much, Christina (and glad to supply some Montreal nostalgia). 😉 I was thrilled that I finally got the texture and flavor balance right, precisely because it’s so healthy! And soooo enjoyable to eat. 🙂

  18. Absolutely dreamy! This is getting bookmarked.

  19. Um, that salad looks so fresh and delicious. I used to hate kale but now, love it! I guess as an omni I would turn my nose up at the veggy but as vegan, I smile and welcome bundles into my home. This is a recipe I will have to book mark for sure.

  20. Blueberry vinaigrette – a new salad dressing for sure and it sounds so fresh and yummy. A wonderful creation – Thanks for posting.

  21. Somehow I had missed this post telling about your dad’s BD celebration, Ricki. So glad I just spotted it! He looks to be in such great health now. 90 is amazing! I think your arm was up just to touch your dad. We have to feel that connection to our loved ones, so you were reaching up since he was bending over. You look fabulous, and so does this salad. Yet another way to get me to really like blueberries perhaps? 😉


    • Oh, I’d be so thrilled if this salad made a blueberry convert out of you! 😉 If you like quinoa and like fruity dressings, I think you’d really enjoy it!

  22. oh my gosh. totally my kind of salad 🙂 can’t wait for blueberries!!!!

  23. I love the mix of ingredients in this. I’m with you in the loving raw kale! What a great photo of you and your dad. 🙂

  24. You have a loved one that has decided to take a picture with you. Right in the middle of the picture where your hand is . . . a beautiful bright ball of light ! Just in case you didnt notice 🙂

  25. Sorry, that might not have made sense . . i meant a loved one that has passed on (away) . . . 🙂

  26. Add a whole seeded pomegranate,it makes the flavor much more juicier. Try it!

  27. Imagine finding these blueberry recipes when I have 2 pints of them in the fridge. I had to check my quinoa situation as I thought I only had red quinoa but I do have white. Even though I still have a bit of tabbouleh made with quinoa left, I am looking forward to this salad. Quinoa, kale and blueberries? … how could I not?

  28. Isn’t it interesting how recipes cycle in and out of rotation in our menus? Not that you no longer like it but new recipes take prominence and others are left behind.
    I find that it is good to be reminded of older, cherished recipes – to make the same or to use as a base for a NEW recipe.

  29. Hi will be trying your recipe tomorrow. saw the link originally on Vegan Mainstream. I really must say your dad looks far younger than 90. Wishing him many more years of good health and looking so great:) Marian

    • Ricki Heller says

      Thanks so much, Marian! I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to hear that! (He actually just turned 92 this year–and looks the same!!!) 😀 Do let me know how you like the salad!

  30. Happy Birthday to your dad! Also, we do the same thing and typically pack food with us when traveling. This salad with blueberries and quinoa looks amazing! Love that last photograph!


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