When composing a dish for the holidays, I think about visual appeal even more than usual. Because we eat with our eyes, I focus on foods that add seasonal color to the table, along with festive flavors and good nutrition.

Here is how I created a salad to serve as a meatless main dish or an appealing accompaniment during the Christmas season.

Quinoa's flavor and texture make it versatile. Its fiber, protein and many vitamins and minerals make it a good nutritional choice. And with no gluten, quinoa works for those who must avoid that ingredient. That's why it works well as a base for the salad.

Intense color usually signals an abundance of phytochemicals in foods, including carotenoids, anthocyanins and other antioxidants. To pair the quinoa with green and red vegetables and fruit, I started with parsley, mint and cilantro, the trio often used in tabbouleh, plus scallions to add zing.

Next I added a red-skinned apple. Its sweetness tastes good against an underlying bitterness in the green herbs; the crunch is welcome, too.

Finally, for even more seasonal color I tossed in pomegranate seeds. This jewel-like fruit is easy to use if you can find the fresh seeds in a container in the produce section.

We are now in citrus season, so many choices beyond limes and lemons are available for a dressing that's a bit special. Adding just enough olive oil to blood orange juice gives the dressing body and intensifies its sun-warmed flavor.

This salad can be served immediately or sit for a day, so have it ready to serve for dinner or lunch, take a container along to sustain you during holiday shopping or pack it up when friends ask you to bring a dish for a holiday gathering.

American Institute for Cancer Research

Holiday Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate and Fresh Herbs


•3/4 cup quinoa

•1 3/4 cups water

•3/4 teaspoons salt, divided

•1/2 medium Fuji apple

•1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

•1/3 cup chopped cilantro

•1/4 cup finely chopped mint

•1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley

•1/3 cup scallions

•1/4 cup blood orange juice

•Freshly ground pepper

•2 teaspoons olive oil


Rinse quinoa in strainer, drain well and place moist grain in heavy, medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with wooden spatula until grains stick to bottom of pot and then start to move freely and smell toasty, about 5 minutes.

When grains of quinoa start to pop, move pot off heat and pour in 1 3/4 cups water. Stand back, as it will splatter. Return pot and reduce heat to medium. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until quinoa is almost tender.

Off heat, let the grain sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and transfer it to mixing bowl. There will be about 2 1/4 cups cooked quinoa.

Let quinoa sit until it is room temperature. Finely chop mint, parsley and scallions. Core and chop apple. Add apple, pomegranate seeds, cilantro, mint, parsley, and scallions to grain and mix to combine.

In small bowl, whisk orange juice with remaining salt until it dissolves. Add 4 to 5 grinds of pepper, then whisk in oil. Pour dressing over salad and toss with fork to distribute it evenly. Serve within 2 hours. The quinoa and dressing parts of this salad can be made up to 8 hours ahead, refrigerated separately and combined shortly before serving.

Servings: 4

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 179 calories, 4 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 32 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 366 mg sodium.