I ate this delicious salad during a wine tasting in Napa Valley and recreated it based on what I can remember of the tastes. This salad is made with red quinoa, which I think is better suited for this dish because red quinoa has a better bite to it than the lighter quinoa.  Crimini mushrooms, which are baby portabella mushrooms add a nice textural component, along with sweet-tart dried cranberries and crunchy pecans. The dressing is a simple emulsion of olive oil, red wine vinegar, grainy mustard and honey. Add a dash of pepper and salt to taste. If you are a vegan, skip the honey and add any other sweetener of your choice, eg. agave syrup or maple syrup.

You can make this salad as a side dish and serve it alongside grilled fish. It is also splendid as a main dish for a vegetarian meal. Quinoa is a seed, not a grain and contains about 8g of protein per cup of quinoa. Its also considered a complete protein, which means it has all nine essential amino acids that your body needs. Did I say this salad is a convenient lunchbox idea? Maybe not for the kids, but the adults are guaranteed to enjoy it.

Serves 4, as a side dish

1 cup dry red quinoa
8 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
4 tbsps olive oil
1-2 tbsps red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp grainy mustard
1 tsp honey
salt to taste

Cook quinoa in 2 cups of water until done. Fluff and set aside to cool. 

Saute crimini mushrooms in a tsp of olive oil until the flavors deepen and most of the moisture is gone. 

In a separate bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, a bit of salt and whisk together to form an emulsion. Stir in cranberries, pecans to moisten them lightly. Fold in the cooked quinoa and mushrooms. Season to taste. 

Serve at room temperature or chilled.