It’s officially spring! At least, we think it is. Our Los Angeles weather is doing that crazy thing it does when cold, rainy days are followed by hot, sunny days. It’s a schizophrenic kind of season right now, so all we can do is go with it. The last few days have been gorgeous, light and bright. Just the kind of weather that dictates what you want to eat. This recipe is one of those ‘go with it’ kinds of dishes. It features a winter squash in what could easily be a summer staple. We’ve shared a number of quinoa recipes on our site before, including our last Ethnic Exploration of Peru. This time, we’re using quinoa, along with lettuce, to create a twist on salad.
How often do you eat slightly wilted lettuce in a salad? Purposely, that is. Don’t think we mean wilted in the soggy, watery, brown-edged greens. We’re talking about butter lettuce leaves tossed with warm quinoa, and they naturally soften due to the residual steam oft he cooked grains. Toasted pecans add extra crunch, and they complement the nutty flavor of the dish. Dried cranberries provide the sweetness, although they could easily be replaced by golden raisins, currants or chopped, dried apricots. Finally, there’s the goat cheese. It is tangy and creamy, and tossing all of the ingredients together encourages the right level of melt, so to speak. This salad is simple enough to be a starter and hearty enough to suffice as a light meal. It is also very easy to adjust to your specific preferences, so if you’re in the go with the flow mood, this dish is right up your alley.
Warm Butternut Squash, Butter Lettuce and Quinoa Salad
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water or vegetable or chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 12 ounces butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 cup butter lettuce, roughly chopped or torn
- 6 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
- 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- 1. In a medium sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over a medium high flame. Add the onions and quinoa, stirring to coat in the oil. Cook, stirring often, until the quinoa begins to smell toasty and turns a light brown color, approximately 3-5 minutes.
- 2. Add the water or broth and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook according to package directions. Remove from heat once done.
- 3. In a separate, shallow pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over a medium high flame. Once hot, add the butternut squash and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring as needed to prevent burning, for approximately 14-16 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat.
- 4. As the quinoa and butternut squash cook, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey and Djion mustard in a small bowl. Set aside.
- 5. When ready, toss the quinoa with the lettuce, allowing the greens to wilt. Drizzle half of the dressing on top and lightly toss to combine. Top the salad with the cranberries, nuts and goat cheese, and drizzle the remaining dressing over the salad. Serve immediately.
Click HERE for the printable recipe.