Quinoa, Roasted Squash, and Apple Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

Welcome to 2015! The holidays have come and gone, and if you're anything like me, you're craving some lighter, healthier fare to get this year off to a fresh start. Grilled chicken breasts and steamed broccoli get boring fast, and sometimes it's hard to stomach leafy salads in the winter-time. (At least for me, just being honest!) IMG_8905 I've always had a bad attitude when it comes to quinoa. I've made a few recipes in the last couple years that were NOT good, and I quickly decided that quinoa was a food I just "didn't like". Well, I was watching the Food Network a few weeks ago, and Giada made this delicious looking grain-based salad using none other than - quinoa. I groaned, but decided maybe, just maybe, I would give it one more chance. It's a nutritional powerhouse - it's high in protein and fiber, and also gluten-free. I'm so glad I did, because I love quinoa in this Quinoa, Roasted Squash, and Apple Salad! Cooked quinoa is combined with roasted squash, crisp apples, dried cherries, and toasted pecans with a slightly smoky cumin vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is key here... it's where all the flavor and moisture is! I think my experiences with quinoa in the past were lacking in the flavor and moisture department. Nothing like dry quinoa to turn you away. Start by roasting your squash - roast cubed butternut squash tossed with olive oil, cumin, salt, and pepper at 400*F for about 30 minutes until tender. IMG_8901 While the squash is roasting, prepare your quinoa. Cook 11/4 cups quinoa in 2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock about 15 minutes until water is absorbed; then let it sit 5-10 minutes before fluffing with a fork. Using stock instead of watergives it a little extra kick of flavor. IMG_8902 While the squash is roasting and quinoa is simmering, prepare your vinaigrette. Combine olive oil, apple cider vinegar, cumin, and a few other spices in a container with a lid, and shake vigorously to combine. IMG_8900 Once all these elements are done, simply combine everything in a big bowl! Squash, quinoa, baby spinach, dried cherries, and toasted pecans. Let it sit 5 minutes to wilt the spinach; then pour the vinaigrette over all. Toss to combine and serve! It can be served warm, room temperature, or cold, but I liked it warm the best. It would be even better topped with a sprinkle of feta or goat cheese! IMG_8903 IMG_8904    

Quinoa, Roasted Squash, and Apple Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

Servings/Yield: 6 servings

  • For the vinaigrette:
    • ¼ cup olive oil
    • tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • ½-1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • ¼-½ teaspoon chili powder
    • dash ground cinnamon
    • dash ground allspice
    • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • For the salad:
    • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
    • cups whole-grain quinoa
    • 4-5 cups peeled & cubed butternut squash
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • ½ teaspoon cumin
    • 1 large Honeycrisp apple, diced
    • ½ cup dried cherries
    • ¾ cup toasted chopped pecans
    • 6-8 cups baby spinach

Method

1. For the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in a jar or container with lid. Shake until well-combined. Set aside.

2. For the salad, roast the butternut squash. Preheat oven to 400*F. Place squash cubes in a 9x13-inch pan. Toss with olive oil, salt, black pepper, and cumin. Roast 30-40 minutes until tender, stirring every few minutes. Set aside.

3. While squash is roasting, prepare the quinoa. Bring vegetable or chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan; add quinoa. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and let quinoa stand, covered, 5-10 minutes; then fluff with a fork.

4. To make salad, place baby spinach in bottom of large bowl. Pour warm quinoa and squash over spinach; add diced apple, dried cherries, and walnut pieces. Let sit 5 minutes to wilt the spinach. Pour vinaigrette over the salad and toss to combine.

Source: adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

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