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There’s nothing wrong with the backseat. A lot of good things happen there, so I’ve been told. There’s no pressure to see the exit sign. No pressure to be the radio DJ on a road trip. Your otherwise observant existence is occasionally called on to answer a random question, only helping to progress a front seat conversation.

It’s like that with a family style meal too.

You’ve got the roast or whole bird carved up, potatoes of some variety and then several backseat sides. But here’s the thing – being a back seater, you have no primary obligation to knock the socks off an aunt or amaze a drunken uncle. You are there to fill a miscellaneous slot or “non potato vegetable” or “cheesy, creamy, something something.” For years I’ve seen such things as jello salad or a similar fluorescent colored food fill this void. So this is a simple protest to all the potluck style gatherings. It’s a healthy middle finger alternative to every holiday or traditional dish you’ll run into over the next 12 months.

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This salad has a wholesome, wintry feel to it. For our first recipe back in action at Fig & Fork I decided not to over think it. I simply went to the produce aisle and sought out a few ripe and seasonal ingredients and let them speak for themselves, as quality ingredients should. The vinaigrette is made from pantry staple ingredients. The result is an offering that will never steal the show, it will never be the first bowl empty, but will always offer a substantial healthy impact without sacrificing flavor.

Winter Quinoa Salad

Serves 8 as a side dish

1 cup quinoa (we used red)
5oz baby arugula or kale mix
2 blood oranges, peeled and chopped
1 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped and roasted
1 mango, diced
salt and pepper to taste- do not skip this step!

3oz olive oil
1 1/2 oz champagne vinegar
1 large spoonful of honey

Cut the cauliflower down into to florets and throw onto a sheet tray with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 450 degrees until caramelized. It will take about 15-20 minutes with opening the oven a few times to check. Let it cool on the sheet tray while you start on the quinoa.

Cook the quinoa according to package directions, and don’t forget to rinse it first. Let it cool slightly, then add it into a large bowl along with the cauliflower.

Whisk the vinaigrette together in a small bowl. Next, add the vinaigrette to the quinoa and cauliflower while they are still cooling. This helps it marinate.

Add the rest of the ingredients into the bowl with the cauliflower, quinoa and vinaigrette. Season it with a few generous pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper. In a dish this simple, these two ingredients will accent this salad from palatable to flavorful.

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