Squash tastes so much better than how it sounds. The word makes you feel or think that it is something that shouldn't taste as good. O but it is a divine autumn food. If you have never baked a squash and found yummy ways to eat it then I dare you to try this simple and 'fall in a bowl' recipe. Cranberries, walnuts and squash mixed with the perfect blend of herbs and quinoa. It will keep you coming back to the bowl, that I can guarantee.
A few recipes ago I made some butternut squash pasta sauce but I didn't really give a detailed explanation of how to bake a squash. So I will do that now... First of all, there are many different kinds of winter squash. Winter squash just means that it has a thinker shell-like skin that will last throughout the later fall and winter. Unlike summer squash like zucchini or yellow summer squash that needs to be eaten much more quickly. The squash below is called a buttercup squash...very similar to the butternut squash flavor but a tad bit sweeter.
It kind of looks like a pumpkin doesn't it?! It is beautifully colored a bright orange and is a bit lighter in weight than the average pie pumpkin of it's size. This is a great squash to get started with if you have not baked a squash in your own oven before.
Directions on how to bake a winter squash:
Cut open the squash and clean out the seeds. I usually cut the squash into 4-6 smaller pieces for a large squash, (or 2-3 pieces for an acorn squash) with the skin still left on it. I lay the pieces on a cookie baking sheet and bake on a high heat of 400 degrees for about 1 hour to 1 and a half hours. If you want to slow cook on a 250 degree heat then you will need to bake for at least 3 hours, or until it is soft enough to cut through without needed to use the blade. After it is baked enough to slice into I pull from the oven and let cool down to room temperature.
Depending on how much it makes, (the last squash I cooked made about 10 cups of cooked squash) so I put all of what I am not going to use in air tight containers in the fridge to use for squash pasta sauce or to add to a soup or another recipe. For the following recipe, after you peal off the skin will need to dice the large pieces into bite-sized pieces. This will be the hardest part and it doesn't take more than 5 minutes. It is that easy. Now time to mix it all together...
Buttercup Squash Quinoa Salad Recipe:
1 medium yellow onion or 3 small shallots
1 TB of olive oil
1 cup of dried quinoa
2 cups of pure water
1 TB of wheat-free tamari sauce
2 cups of diced pre-baked buttercup squash (butternut or other winter squash works too)
1 cup of finely chopped fresh kale (spinach or another fresh greens if you don't have any kale)
2-3 TB of balsamic vinegar
1-2 TB of olive oil
1 TB of pure maple syrup
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of toasted walnuts
1/2 cup of freshly chopped parsley (I love the fresh herb so I usually add more than 1/2 cup)
fresh cracked pepper
Start with sauteing the onions in a little bit of olive oil in a medium pot. Then add the 1 cup of dry quinoa and toast up for a few minutes before adding the water. After 2-3 minutes add 2 cups of pure water an 1 TB of the wheat-free tamari sauce. Cook until a boil, and then turn heat to a simmer and let cook for about 15-20 minutes until there is no water left and there are air holes in the pot of cooked quinoa. Set aside and let cool down a bit.
In another frying pan, add 1 TB of olive oil to the bottom of the pan and place the cubed/diced pre-baked squash in the pan to warm up and fry. After a few minutes of toasting the squash add the kale and let it wilt just a bit.
After a few minutes of cooking, in a large mixing bowl add the cooled quinoa mix, and the butternut squash and kale mix. Toss in the vinegar, maple syrup and toasted walnuts and cranberries. Toss a few times and add in the chopped parsley and mix through. Make sure all parts are equally stirred ad then pour into a serving bowl. This salad could be served warm or cold. It is like Thanksgiving in a bowl, or well at least 'fall in a bowl'. It is served as a great side to almost any meal.
I hope you enjoy this dish with a relaxing get together with friends, or at home nice and cozy with someone you love. I will keep the squash recipes coming, because if you start loving the taste and baking more then you will have a lot of cooked squash on your hands to use up. That is the nice thing about winter squash...you can make it last far into the end of autumn and into the winter months. It will keep you warm way into the cold nights and hint of snow that may be coming... Enjoy!!!