(NC) Who doesn’t love a great salad? Take a mix of interesting ingredients plus a dazzling dressing, and you are ready to serve it up.

Have you ever added grapes as a not-so-secret ingredient?

A single handful of California grapes, for example, are easy and versatile and will instantly boost your salad’s appeal with refreshing colour and goodness, not to mention the juicy burst of flavour that grapes add to each bite.

No matter what your salad’s origins – perhaps takeout from the fast food joint on the corner, from a bag of lettuce mix, or from specialty greens from your local grocer – when you toss in grapes, your salad will never again be ordinary.

Select any colour. You’ll notice that the red, green and black varieties pair well with an array of salad dressings. For example, their delicate sweetness blends well with creamy blue cheese and ranch dressings – and goes well with citrus, smoky and spicy dressings too. Even a simple vinaigrette dressing seems less vinegary when paired with grapes.

Best of all, California grapes pair well with earthier ingredients such as rice, pasta, and whole grains, including quinoa, faro, and wheatberries. The sweet-tart flavour and succulent quality of the fruit bring a much needed “lift” to such dishes, like this one:

Quinoa Salad with Grapes, Almonds and Spinach

1 cup multi-coloured quinoa

Salt

1/3 cup Orange Mustard Dressing (recipe follows)

½ cup slivered almonds

2 cups washed and dried baby spinach

4 scallions, finely chopped

3 cups green seedless California grapes, halved

Freshly ground black pepper

Orange Mustard Dressing

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons honey mustard

2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the quinoa and season with salt. Simmer 9 minutes and drain well. Cool 10 minutes.

Meanwhile spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until golden, 6-8 minutes. Let cool.

Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and stir in the dressing. Mix well and stir in the remaining ingredients. Season well with salt and pepper and serve at room temperature or chilled. Makes 6 cups.

Serves 6.

Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 311; Protein 8.5 g; Carbohydrate 46 g; Fat 12 g; 33% Calories from Fat; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 193 mg; Potassium 491 mg; Fibre 6 g.

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