I first had quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) a few years ago at a work potluck. I think it’s become more mainstream since then, and we have slowly introduced it into our diet in rotation with our regular rice, couscous or barley side dishes. I love grain salads in summer, and the first time we made this Jeff and I both knew we had an absolute hit. I’ve made this for four batches of company this summer, and the rave reviews keep coming. It was, therefore, pretty easy to name this recipe our #1 salad of Summer 2012.
Quinoa Salad with Roasted Squash, Basil, Cranberries and Lemon Vinaigrette
adapted from Sweet Sugar Bean blog & updated September 2017
serves 6-8 as a side dish
1 small* butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1/2 chunks
~ 2 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed very well
1 cup water or chicken broth
1/4-1/3 cup pecans or almonds, chopped and toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries (or a few handfuls until the ratio looks right!)
2 green onions, diced
handful of fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
1 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon (to make 1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 1/2 Tbsp. maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel and chop the squash, then toss it into a shallow casserole. Add olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper; mix well so each piece of squash is coated. Roast for 15 minutes; remove from oven and sprinkle with brown sugar. Return to oven for another 10 minutes or until squash is cooked through. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. *If the squash is large, I cube the whole thing and freeze half.
To cook quinoa, rinse it very well, drain it, and place it in a saucepan with water/chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, combine cooled cooked quinoa and roasted squash (along with syrup created by the brown sugar) along with the nuts, cranberries, green onions, basile and lemon zest. If you’re not serving right away, keep the nuts aside and add them right before serving so they stay crunchy. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and maple syrup then pouring it over the quinoa mixture individually then stir well to combine. The final salad is lovely served either cold or at room temperature and keeps very well in the fridge for a few days so I usually make it ahead of time, adding the nuts just before service.
I have also found it easy to increase the salad for larger groups or to scale up according to the size of squash. As long as you keep the amounts of maple syrup, lemon juice and olive oil equal in the dressing, it always works out well. While the salad in the photo below shows almonds, after making this MANY times since 2012, we have developed a slight preference for toasted pecans.