Fall Quinoa Salad

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Soft chunks of butternut squash, salty pumpkin seeds, sweet chopped dates, crunchy kale, and aromatic sage form a sensational and light quinoa salad for fall. Quinoa, couscous, tabbouleh, and barley are all versatile grains that really shine with the right ingredients. Fall is well underway and I have been itching to make a fall-fabulous salad with seasonal ingredients. For the summer and spring I love making a bright couscous salad with fresh crisp veggies, but a fall quinoa salad calls for richer flavors and textures.

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Fall quinoa salad is crazy easy to make because it can be prepped in advance if you’re planning on treating guests to a feast. I roasted the butternut squash and made the quinoa a day ahead. It is better to work with chilled ingredients so the kale and sage do not wilt from the freshly cooked ingredients. Crunchy pepitas or pumpkin seeds add texture, flavor, and bring saltiness to the dish while butternut squash’s velvety bite gives the salad healthy richness. Dress this salad lightly with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice or whisk up a yogurt dressing to drizzle on top. Serve fall quinoa salad with roasted chicken, fish, or enjoy with extra greens as a salad!

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Fall Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa prepared as directed
  • 2 cups fresh chopped kale
  • 2 cups roasted and diced butternut squash
  • 1 sprig sage finely chopped
  • ½ cup dates pitted and chopped
  • ½ cup roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Prepare the quinoa as directed; you can optionally use chicken broth or orange juice instead of just water to cook the quinoa. Spread the cooked quinoa on a baking sheet so it can cool. Roast the butternut squash in advance. Cut it in half, core out the seeds, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the halves cut side up on a baking sheet and roast for 35-45 minutes or until fork tender at 350F.

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Once the squash is cool enough to handle gently peel off the outer skin and dice the squash in cubes; set aside. Chop the kale, dates, and sage. Combine the ingredients and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. I also thought an apple cider vinaigrette could work well with this dish, but alas I did not have any apple cider vinegar handy.

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Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Flatbread

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Roasted butternut squash and caramelized onions form a perfect union atop a thin flatbread crust with dressed arugula. Fall is fully upon us, and while we don’t enjoy the changing seasons in Florida, we can at least jump on board with fall inspired recipes. Butternut squash is much easier to prepare than some of the other squash varieties. The skin peels off easily, it cuts like a dream, and its sweet rich flesh is quite versatile.

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I have always had a deep love for caramelized onions, and I find that their natural sweetness plays well with the creamy squash and salty reggiano. My local grocery store, Publix, sells awesome freshly made pizza dough which I buy on the regular to use in recipes like my German Flammkuchen. I figured roasting the squash and caramelizing all those onions was enough effort! If your grocery store doesn’t sell fresh pizza dough, I would recommend following a recipe like this one from Smitten Kitchen instead of buying the canned Pillsbury variety.

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The caramelized onions and squash can be prepared a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator making assembly that much easier when you are preparing this meal for guests. I thought about also adding bacon and kale, but I figured simpler is better, and boy was I right! This pizza was sweet and savory complimented by the peppery arugula salad on top. I would recommend enjoying this butternut squash and caramelized onion flatbread with a crisp German Riesling or an old world white wine.

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Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Flatbread

  • Fresh pizza dough
  • Flour for dusting
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 ¾ pound or 4 medium sized yellow onions thinly sliced
  • ½ medium sized butternut squash
  • 1 cup grated reggiano
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 teaspoon stone ground Dijon
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper

Thinly slice onions and caramelize on low heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil for 45 minutes or so. Heat the olive oil first on low heat and add the onions, making sure to separate them as you drop them in. You should barely stir the onions; I stirred them 3 times only because I cannot resist the urge to stir them a few times. One of my chef instructors at FIU, Chef Moran, said caramelized onions should never be stirred, rather just let them sit on low heat and they will cook beautifully.

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While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 400F, halve the butternut squash and scoop the insides and discard. Rub olive oil on the outside and inside of the butternut squash. Season with salt and pepper and place the butternut squash cut side up on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes or until fork tender.

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Allow the butternut squash to cool down and come to room temperature before handling. Turn the squash over when cool and use a spoon to gently scrape off the outer skin. The skin will generally peel off quite easily, but around the thin neck of the squash I had to softly scrape the skin off. At this point you can store the squash in the refrigerator in a sealed container if preparing a day in advance, or thinly slice the squash horizontally to prep for the flatbread.

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Preheat the oven to 400F. Grate the cheese and set aside. Roll out the pizza dough on a clean countertop surface to create a thin crust using flour to make sure the dough doesn’t stick. Next, evenly spread the caramelized onions over the rolled out dough. Layer with thin slices of butternut squash and season with a little bit of pepper. Next sprinkle the reggiano cheese on top.

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Bake the butternut squash and caramelized onion flatbread in the oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Whisk together 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper to taste, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to use as a light dressing for the arugula. Top the butternut squash and caramelized onion flatbread with the lightly dressed arugula, slice, and serve.

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Healthy Chicken Salad

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Healthy chicken salad is wonderful on toasted multigrain or baguette, served over a green salad, in a wrap, or on crisp celery stalks. There is nothing like a fresh and healthy chicken salad. I love chicken salads, but I generally shy away from ordering them or making them because they are usually loaded with globs of mayonnaise. This is a recipe I have been thinking about for a while, and I was inspired by my favorite local bakery Chocolate Fashion.

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This bakery is seriously divine. The celebrated chef, Georges Berger, is renowned for his pastry skills both locally and nationally. Not only is this South Florida French bakery charming and welcoming, but the delicious daily lunch specials, homemade sandwiches and salads, and picture perfect pastries make this local spot a real Coral Gables gem.

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Poached chicken in mirepoix and herbs tastes wonderful tossed in my tangy tarragon lemon vinaigrette with crunchy apple, celery, roasted red peppers, and walnut. This recipe is perfect year-round with audible crunch and bright flavors.

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Poached Chicken Breasts inspired by Martha Stewart:

  • 2 Split Chicken Breasts bone-in and skin-on
  • 1 celery stalk quartered
  • 1 medium carrot quartered
  • ½ a small onion
  • Small bunch fresh parsley
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper

Place all of the ingredients in a pot and add enough water to cover the ingredients by an inch. Bring to a gentle boil/simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low cooking for about 15-18 minutes. I ended up turning the chicken breasts upside down so the thick part could cook through. Place the chicken in a Pyrex dish, and strain the remaining liquid over the breasts. This will keep them moist as they cool.

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Homemade Chicken Salad:

  • 1 celery stalk finely diced
  • 1 apple diced
  • ½ small onion finely diced
  • 1 roasted red pepper packed in water; diced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts chopped into ‘chips’

Tarragon Lemon Vinaigrette:

Dice the celery, apple, onion, red pepper, and walnuts while the chicken is cooling and set aside. Toast the walnuts in the oven and allow them to cool. In a large bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, greek yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, tarragon, finely chopped onion, Worcestershire, brown mustard, and salt and pepper. I like to whisk the onions with the dressing so they can soften up and take on the wonderful flavors of the dressing and reduce their pungent raw flavor which some find offensive (I personally love raw onions!). Feel free to taste the dressing and adjust any flavors as needed to suit your palate. Remember cooking is about enjoying things the way you like them, and only you know what you like!

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Now skin and debone the cooled poached chicken breasts, and dice evenly. Put the kitchen in the bowl with the tarragon lemon vinaigrette, and add the celery, apple, walnuts, and red peppers and toss well in the dressing. Serve the homemade chicken salad over greens or on toasted multigrain or baguette.

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Hint: If serving on a multigrain roll or baguette scoop both the top and bottom buns so the healthy chicken salad will fit nicely inside and not fall out of the bun between bites!