A few months ago, I joined the CSA (community supported agriculture) program from East Austin-based Johnson’s Backyard Garden organic farm. I love the idea of supporting local farmers while being treated to a surprise box of organic goodies every week. The process couldn’t be easier – simply sign up to receive a small, medium or large box of seasonal, certified organic produce, and pick it up at a convenient locations (they have dozens of drop-off locations throughout San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Dallas). I pick mine up at my neighborhood Whole Foods every Wednesday.
When this past week’s harvest included butternut squash, kale, and fennel, I immediately thought: BIG SALAD. I love salads year round, and while this one can be eaten warm, it’s also great at room temperature. For the base, I used black quinoa which perfectly highlights the beautiful colors of the vegetables. High in fiber, protein, and iron, quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain, and while any grain like farro, bulgur or millet work well here, quinoa is my go-to when friends or family members on a gluten-free diet are joining us for dinner.
After roasting the butternut squash, I let it and the quinoa cool a bit (fluff the quinoa with a fork before mixing), then mixed both with the kale ribbons. Adding the fennel and walnuts gave it a nice flavor and crunch, and the dried cranberries a little sweetness and even more beautiful color. Finally, I tossed the salad with a simple lemon dijon vinaigrette and added a little parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
I love this salad for Thanksgiving or Christmas, because it brightens up the buffet table and offers something for everyone. But this is also great as a light one-dish lunch or dinner for you and the family. It’s very filling! You could also pair it with my carrot ginger soup for another lovely soup and salad combo.
Enjoy, and have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving, everyone!
1 cup black quinoa, dry
4 cups butternut squash, cubed
2 teaspoons coconut or olive oil
1/2 bunch of lacinato kale, de-stemmed and sliced in ribbons
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 bulb fennel, sliced thinly and roughly chopped
small handful parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Rinse quinoa and combine in a saucepan with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, add a pinch of salt and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Drain and return to the pan. Cover and allow to rest for another 15 minutes.
3. Place butternut squash on a sheet pan and combine with coconut or avocado oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes until squash is nicely browned but do not overcook. Squash should remain firm-tender, not mushy.
4. Place the kale ribbons in a bowl and add a sprinkle of salt. Massage for 2 minutes until softened.
5. Allow quinoa and butternut squash to cool a bit to room temperature.
6. Mix the quinoa with the butternut squash and kale. Add the cranberries, walnuts and fennel.
7. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, honey and Dijon mustard and slowly whisk in the olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
8. Toss the salad with the dressing, adding a little dressing at a time. You may not use all the dressing. Salt and pepper to taste again, if necessary.
9. Serve and enjoy!