This delicious and healthy salad is easy to make and will brighten your mood during a dull winter day. It’s vibrant, full of flavor, and makes for a perfect meal prep lunch!
How do we feel about quinoa? Are we over it or is it back “in style”? I shared this salad back in 2014 when quinoa was all the rage in the wellness world and I was just as obsessed as everyone else was. Quinoa is packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals but doesn’t have that strong hearty, chewy texture that a lot of the better-for-us grains have. It cooks up light and fluffy and is very appealing.
For a while there I think quinoa was getting a little tired and we weren’t reaching for it as often. I mean, there are plenty of other yummy grains out there for us to enjoy. BUT, I think we’ve settled into that comfortable quinoa-is-here-to-stay situation.
Oh, and quinoa isn’t actually a grain at all. It’s a seed. However, we treat it like a grain in how we cook it and eat it and it makes a great side dish or base for salads.
Salads can be especially hard to put together during the winter. A lot of common salad components look pretty sad this time year. Instead of just avoiding salads, I like to rethink how I put one together. Quinoa as the base instead of lettuce is the perfect way to do this. Plus it’s waaay more filling and satisfying than lettuce.
Toss in some in-season produce like butternut squash and apple and you have yourself a pretty tasty lunch. I absolutely love the combo of the sweet apples and creamy butternut squash tossed with quinoa, pine nuts, feta, and a deliciously tangy curry-maple dressing. Toss in some fresh mint, and you will perk right up on a gloomy winter day!
This winter quinoa salad holds up well in the fridge, which makes its perfect for lunch throughout the week. I love topping mine with a hard-boiled egg since it’s so easy to cook up a batch and keep them in the fridge. However, chicken, salmon, or shrimp would be delicious alongside this salad. I hope you’ll try this unique salad and enjoy it as much as I do!
- ¾ Cup Quinoa rinsed well
- 1 Teaspoon Olive Oil plus more for drizzling
- 1 ¼ Cups Water
- 2 Cups Butternut Squash cut into small dice
- ¼ Cup Pine Nuts
- 1 Apple sliced into thin matchsticks
- ¼ Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese omit to make this Vegan
- ¼ Cup Fresh Mint finely chopped
- 1 Small Shallot thinly sliced
- Zest of 1 Orange
- 2 Tablespoons Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice from about ½ an orange
- 2 Tablespoons Champagne Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
- ½ Teaspoon Curry Powder
- ½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
- ½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 5 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
In a medium saucepot, heat the teaspoon of oil over medium heat. Add in the rinsed quinoa and stir until the excess water evaporates. Season with a few pinches of salt and pour in the water. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook the quinoa for around 10 minutes or until the majority of the liquid is absorbed. Remove the pot from the heat and let rest for 15 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and transfer to a bowl to cool completely.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425º. Toss the butternut with a few drizzles of olive oil on a baking sheet and season well with salt and pepper. Roast the squash for about 12 minutes or until it begins to brown around the edges and is tender. Toss the pine nuts onto the baking sheet with the butternut squash and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the pine nuts are toasted. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool completely.
In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the shallot, orange zest, orange juice, vinegar, maple syrup, curry, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Shake well to combine.
In the bowl with the cooled quinoa, toss in the butternut squash, pine nuts, apple, feta, and mint. Pour in the dressing and mix well and allow the salad to sit for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Salad is best at room temperature but will last in the fridge for up to 4 days. (I allow my leftovers to come to room temperature or heat for about 20 seconds in the microwave to take the chill off before enjoying!)