A few weeks ago, I attended an event where Johanna Cook (perfect name, right?) of Momma Cuisine shared some of her favorite holiday recipes and tips with us. She shared this warm black rice salad that we all adored. I may or may not have tried to steal an entire pumpkin for myself.
It was that good.
Needless to say, the next day was my turn to provide lunch for the PTO presidents in my district for our twice a month meeting. Since I love to cook, I always make the food I bring to the lunch rather than catering from a local restaurant. I decided to make a twist on Johanna’s recipe and mix it up a little bit use ingredients I already had in my house as well as bring out some of my favorite flavors in a little different way. I rounded out our lunch with homemade sandwiches and my pumpkin swirl brownies, and for less than $40, I fed 20+ people with leftovers.
With all the entertaining yet to come over the holidays, I know this harvest quinoa salad will be a dish I make again and again. It’s quick and easy, and it holds well if I make it a little ahead of time. The leftovers I enjoyed the next day were just as good if not better than the salad served fresh and warm to my fellow PTO presidents.
As amazing and delicious as Johanna’s recipe was, I did switch out a few things to make my harvest quinoa salad. Instead of fresh red peppers, I roasted my own as I love the flavor of roasted pepper. I also used quinoa instead of black rice because I had that on hand. I used more feta and roasted butternut squash than her recipe called for (and updated my recipe with even more than I used for the PTO presidents because it just “needed” a little more”), as well as adding a touch of lime juice for a bit more of an acidic note. No matter how you make it, I’m pretty sure you’ll end up with a very happy – and fully – tummy.
Harvest Quinoa Salad Recipe
To make this harvest quinoa salad, start by roasting your butternut squash. Though this is the last item you’ll add to your salad, you need to roast it and let it cool slightly before adding it to the salad, so get it started right away. Halve a butternut medium butternut squash and remove the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place on a baking sheet. Cook for 30 minute at 400 degrees and check for doneness. You want it to give when poked and be slightly browned. Depending on the size and thickness of your squash, this may take up to 45 minutes. Once it is done, remove from the oven and let cool.
Go ahead and begin cooking up your quinoa while your squash roasts. I used a mix of regular quinoa and tri-color quinoa, but any type of quinoa will work. I like the tri-color or red quinoa to give the dish some more color. Make sure to soak and rinse your quinoa before cooking.
As your quinoa cooks, chop your veggies. Dice your red onion and chop your spinach and add them to a large bowl for mixing. Go ahead and chop your zucchini and green onions and chop your fresh parsley, but hold them in reserve.
Place your red peppers over an open flame and roast them. As they start to crackle, use tongs to turn them, You want each side to be blackened, which will take less than 10 minutes. Remove them from the heat and wrap in tin foil to finish steaming. Let them sit for about ten minutes or so, then use your hands to peel them. Remove all the charred skin, leaving just the flesh behind. Slice, removing the top and seeds inside, then dice and add to your bowl of veggies.
Once your quinoa has finished cooking, add it to your bowl, over the onion and spinach. The heat and steam from this will soften them up just a little bit and shrink your spinach, so let it just sit and steam for two or three minutes.
Add your remaining veggies – the zucchini, green onions, parsley, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds – and stir. Add the balsamic vinegar, lime juice, cumin, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat.
Add the crumbled feta cheese and roasted butternut squash and gently stir to distribute. Serve your harvest quinoa salad immediately or store in the fridge for up to three days.
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1 c quinoa
- 2 c water (or broth)
- 3/4 c red onion, diced
- 2 c baby spinach, chopped
- 1 zucchini, chopped
- 3/4 c green onions, sliced
- 1/2 c fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 red peppers, roasted and chopped
- 1 c pumpkin seeds, toasted
- 1 c dried cranberries
- 6 oz feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 c olive oil
- 2 T balsamic vinegar
- 2 T lime juice
- 2 t cumin
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Roast butternut squash at 400 degrees for 30 minutes (up to 45 minutes depending on size) and let cool. Remove from skin and chop.
- While butternut squash is cooking, rinse and drain your dry quinoa, then cook quinoa with water or broth bringing to a boil then simmering for 15 minutes.
- Roast your red peppers over a gas stove until skin is charred or in the oven for 20 minutes. Wrap with foil and let sit for 15 minutes, then remove skin and seeds and chop.
- Chop fresh veggies while quinoa is cooking. Add red onion and spinach to a mixing bowl, holding the remaining in reserve. Once the quinoa has cooked, add the quinoa over top of the spinach and onion and let steam for a few minutes.
- Add the zucchini, green onions, parsley, red pepper, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds, and stir well. Add the olive oil, balsamic, lime juice, and cumin and stir to coat. Add the butternut squash and feta and stir gently to distribute. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve immediately or store tightly covered in the fridge for up to three days.