I find the best thing about making salads in Winter is the legitimate entitlement to add candied pecan nuts and sweet fruit to them. Essentially turning them from healthy and clean to pretty much dessert-esque! BTW, I know the word clean is out when describing food but I thought it worked well here. Seriously, everyone has dishes that they make again and again, ones that require little thought and effort. I’ve been making a variation of this butternut squash and feta salad for years swapping in different dressing, grains, leaves and extras depending on what I have. Maple candied pecans and pomegranate seeds are essential extras to this recipe. In fact, they are essential extras to pretty much most salads this time of year.
My cooking is all over the place at the moment and my appetite isn’t amazing at times. That means when I do really long for something, I must have it ASAP. Anyway, last week I wanted salad so there was nothing for it but to get my hands on butternut squash, feta cheese and all the extras. For say one, I made the salad using the ingredients below, and found myself with leftovers. So I prepped them according to the directions and kept them separately in the fridge to make tacos with them the next day.
This is a delicious salad that tastes just as good in cooler winter weather as it does in milder weather. Scroll on for the recipe for my Butternut Squash, Quinoa and Feta Cheese Salad.
Butternut Squash, Quinoa & Feta Cheese Salad
2 cups of butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into small cubes
1/3 cup of uncooked quinoa
100g feta cheese crumbled
2 large handfuls of salad leaves
2 scallions, trimmed and sliced thinly
Seeds of a quarter of a pomegranate
2 clementines, peeled and broken into segments
1/3 cup pecan nuts
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season the squash
For the dressing:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
Large pinch sea salt
Large pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5. Toss the cubes of butternut squash in a tablespoon of olive oil and season well with sea salt and black pepper. Place on a baking tray in the oven for 25 minutes or until the squash is soft and tender.
To cook the quinoa, rinse the uncooked quinoa in a fine sieve. Add it to a medium size saucepan along with a cup of boiling water. Return to the boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow the quinoa to cook for approx. 15 minutes or until the water boils off and the quinoa becomes soft and fluffy. Remove from the heat and drain off any excess water and use a fork to fluff up the quinoa.
Meanwhile, dry toast the pecan nuts in a small pot for five minutes, tossing regularly. Tip into a bowl and heat a tablespoon of maple syrup in the small pot. Just when it starts to caramelise, add the pecan nuts back to the pot and stir to coat. Remove from the heat and spread the nuts out parchment paper to cool. Once cooled, roughly chop.
To make the dressing, place all the dressing ingredients in a small jar. Secure the lid tightly and shake well.
Once the squash is cooked remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for ten minutes. To assemble the salad, place the salad leaves and sliced scallion in the base of your serving dish. Spoon the roast squash and quinoa evenly over the salad leaves. Drizzle half the dressing on top and toss well with the squash, quinoa and leaves. Add the crumbled feta cheese on top along with the pomegranate seeds, clementine segments and the pecan nuts. Drizzle some more dressing on top and serve the remainder on the side.
Serve straight away and enjoy. If you are preparing this is advance, prepare each element and store separately. Assemble the salad just before serving.