Monday, November 9, 2015

Recipe: Quinoa Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash

Last month, I was lucky enough to be asked to host two cooking demos at the annual Frederick County Chamber of Commerce Expo. It was so well organized and set-up, I really, really enjoyed myself this year. The crowd was delightful and I even had the chance to taste some yummies from the other vendors (the arepas were definitely my favorite!)

One of the dishes that I demonstrated featured that ever chic grain quinoa (sounds like keen-wa). Folks have heard of it but tend to be a wee bit nervous about making it at home. Seriously though, if I can whip up a batch in front a group of people, while talking the entire time, how hard can it be? ;)

Before you cook your quinoa, make sure you give it a good rinse, despite what the package directions may indicate. Quinoa has a bitter outer coating, and if you don't get rid of it, well, yuk, so why take the chance? I buy mine from the bulk food bins at Wegmans, and there are no cooking directions. If you go that route, here's an easy way to cook it:

Combine 2 cups quinoa with 4 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain it thoroughly after it's cooked

If you want to up the yum factor, cook your quinoa in vegetable or chicken broth instead of water. It gives you a chance to get some flavor into the grain, which is another layer and ultimately benefits the entire dish.

This recipe is a riff on one put out by the folks at Ancient Harvest. I've made a few changes that I think make it even tastier, but you be the judge.

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash
Serves 8
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes (you can also buy the already peeled and cubed stuff at the grocery store--no shame there!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt 
  • black pepper
  • ½ cup pecans or walnuts, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Apple Cider Vinaigrette Dressing
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper, and toss. Roast the squash for 20-25 minutes, turning once, until tender and a little brown. Drizzle maple syrup over the hot squash and toss gently to coat.

While the squash is roasting, place a medium saute pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Add minced shallot and cook for 2 minutes, or until fragrant and softened.
Add the apple cider, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and dried cranberries to the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until reduced by about half and cranberries have plumped a bit. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper, then drizzle in 1/3 cup olive oil while whisking.

In a large bowl, add the roasted squash, cooked quinoa, and pecans. Pour vinaigrette over quinoa mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.