Salads are no longer just a side dish but have evolved into hearty, satisfying meals. One such delightful creation is ourr Roasted Butternut Squash and Quinoa Salad. This dish combines the earthy richness of quinoa, the sweet nuttiness of roasted butternut squash, and the delightful zing of a homemade balsamic dressing.
Quinoa, a nutrient-packed grain native to South America, forms the heart of this salad. Cooking quinoa is a breeze – just rinse it under cold water to remove any bitter coating, then simmer it in water or broth until it’s tender and has absorbed the liquid. Fluff it with a fork and let it cool, ready to absorb the delicious flavors of the other ingredients.
Roasting the Butternut Squash:
The butternut squash takes center stage as the salad’s sweet and hearty component. Roasting the squash is the key to bringing out its natural sweetness and enhancing its nutty flavor. After tossing the cubed squash with olive oil, salt, and black pepper, a brief visit in the oven results in tender, slightly caramelized perfection.
The Homemade Dressing:
No salad is complete without a tantalizing dressing, and this one is a winner. Combining olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, salt, and black pepper results in a dressing that strikes a balance between sweet, tangy, and savory flavors.
To personalize it, add a drizzle of pure maple syrup to adjust the sweetness and acidity to your liking. This dressing elevates the entire salad, infusing every ingredient with a burst of rich, complementary tastes.
Bringing it All Together:
In a large salad bowl, combine the cooled quinoa, the butternut squash, sweet dried cranberries, a pop of organic red onion, and the nutty crunch of toasted slivered almonds. Pour the prepared dressing over this medley of ingredients and gently toss until everything is well coated. The result is a visually appealing, colorful masterpiece that is as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the taste buds.
Serving and Versatility:
The Roasted Butternut and Quinoa Salad is a versatile dish. It can be served immediately as a hearty, nutritious meal, or as a flavorful side dish that pairs wonderfully with grilled proteins or other vegetables.
Additionally, this salad shines at picnics, potlucks, or when you’re planning your meals for the week ahead. Its vibrant colors and robust flavors make it a delightful addition to any dining occasion.
- Roast the Butternut Squash Properly: To achieve perfectly roasted butternut squash, make sure to toss it in olive oil and season it with salt and pepper before arranging it on a baking sheet. Spread the cubes in a single layer with enough space to avoid steaming. Roast at a high temperature (between 425-450°F) for about 20 minutes or until the squash is tender and nicely browned.
- Rinse Quinoa Thoroughly: Rinsing quinoa under cold water is crucial to remove its natural coating, called saponin, which can give it a bitter taste if not properly washed. Rinse until the water runs clear to enjoy the full nutty flavor of quinoa.
- Experiment with Dressing: While the recipe suggests a delicious balsamic vinaigrette, feel free to get creative with the dressing. You can try different variations, such as a lemon-tahini dressing or a citrus-honey vinaigrette, to personalize the flavors according to your taste preferences.
- Customize with Your Favorites: This salad is highly versatile, so don’t hesitate to add or substitute ingredients based on your liking. Consider incorporating toasted pumpkin seeds, feta cheese, or dried apricots for extra texture and flavors.
ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH & QUINOA SALAD
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- 1 Cup Uncooked Quinoa (red or white)
- 1 ½ Cups Water (or broth)
- 1 Butternut Squash, chopped into small cubes
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- ½ Cup Dried Cranberries
- ¼ Cup Organic Red Onion, finely diced
- ¼ Cup Toasted Slivered Almonds
- salt and black pepper
FOR THE DRESSING:
- ½ Cup Olive Oil
- ¼ Cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- salt and black pepper
- drizzle of Pure Maple Syrup
- Preheat the oven to between 425-450°F.
- In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and arrange the squash on a baking sheet in a single layer leaving plenty of room so it doesn’t steam. This may require 2 baking sheets
- Roast for approximately 20 minutes, checking every few minutes after until the squash is tender and browned
- Meanwhile, rinse quinoa under cold water until water runs clear, (this is an essential step as the quinoa will have a bitter taste if it’s not rinsed first)
- Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan, add the quinoa and reduce to a simmer, and cook partially covered until the liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside until ready to assemble
- Combine the quinoa, butternut squash, cranberries, red onion, and slivered almonds in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette and mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Chill in the refrigerator