Roasted Butternut Squash and Quinoa

by formerchef on November 20, 2015

Post image for Roasted Butternut Squash and Quinoa

“I wish I knew how to quit you…”

I said, looking longingly at my faithful, but now dead, computer.

The hard drive of my four year old computer had simply ceased functioning one day a few weeks ago. I was working on it, walked out of the room, returned, and poof! Gone. In its place was the dreaded DOS black screen with white text telling me that my hard drive was in imminent failure. The good news is that within a couple of days I was able to have the drive replaced, saving me the agony (and money) of having to buy a new computer on the fly. The bad news was that I had to recover all my files from my backup drive and reinstall all the software myself which was a long and tedious process.

What’s the point of this tale? The first is to admonish you to make sure you have an active back up drive either in an external drive or the cloud, or both. Without my back up drive, I would have lost over a terabyte of data spanning 15 years and 130,000+ photos. I learned this lesson the hard way many years ago.
Go, do it, NOW. I’ll wait.

The second point is that this problem delayed me in getting this lovely recipe out sooner even though I made it several weeks ago. Every time I went to work on it, I was thwarted by either a dead or “not ready” to be used computer. Not to mention all the bill paying, emails, and writing put on hold until I got things fixed. I wish my life was not so connected to this electronic box, but I just can’t quit it, so…

Here it is, just in time to be that new Thanksgiving side dish you were looking for. Trust me on this, it may sound a little “healthy” for a holiday dish (yeah, yeah, quinoa), but you will find yourself eating leftovers straight out of the fridge with a spoon the next day, if you have any left at all. It’s so addicting because the squash gets even sweeter when roasted and the quinoa has a nice nutty crunch along with the roasted pepitas.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Quinoa Salad with Pepitas and Lemon Cumin Vinaigrette

Roasted Butternut Squash and Quinoa Salad with Pepitas and Lemon Cumin Vinaigrette

Cooking notes:

Is it a side dish? A salad? A vegetarian main course? You decide. This dish can be served chilled (made in advance), room temperature, or warm, right after you finish it, your choice.

Butternut Squash: I made it easier on myself by buying the squash already cleaned and diced (impulse buy), but if you have a whole squash, what I usually do is cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and cut it in half again. Then I cut off the thin skin with a very sharp knife and cut the squash into chunks. Be careful because it can be slippery. You can also use a regular potato peeler to take off the skin. A 2.5 lb whole squash should yield about 2 lbs.

Quinoa: I prefer red quinoa over white, and what you see in the photos is a blend of red and white. The red seems to stay firmer when cooked and the white can get mushy. I cook the quinoa in my Aroma rice cooker* to make it easy and get flawless results, but it works just just fine in a pot of water; one part quinoa to two parts water.

Yield: This recipe makes quite a bit, perfect for a dinner party, about 10 cups. Feel free to cut it in half, but having leftovers is pretty great too!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Quinoa Salad with Pepitas and Lemon Cumin Vinaigrette

Ingredients for Roasted Butternut Squash and Quinoa Salad with Pepitas and Lemon Cumin Vinaigrette

Roasted Butternut Squash and Quinoa

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 10 cups

Serving Size: 1 cup


    For the Salad
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups red or white quinoa (4 cups cooked)
  • 1/2 ounce cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 3 each green onions, sliced
  • 2 each tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup roasted pepitas (small pumpkin seeds)
  • Lemon Cumin Vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • Lemon Cumin Vinaigrette
  • 1 lemon, zested then juiced (about 1 floz juice)
  • 1 fluid ounce white wine vinegar
  • 1 each shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 fluid ounces extra virgin olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Toss the diced squash in a large bowl with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a baking pan. Roast in the oven 30-35 minutes until the squash begins to brown and caramelize on the edges. When the squash is cooked, allow it to cool slightly before proceeding.
  3. While the squash is roasting, cook the quinoa (according to package directions or in a pot with 2 cups quinoa and 4 cups water). When the quinoa is cooked, allow it to cool slightly before proceeding.
  4. In a small bowl whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette.
  5. To assemble the dish:
  6. In a large bowl, place the quinoa, diced tomatoes, sliced green onion, and half of the chopped cilantro. Using a large spoon, fold the ingredients together with 2/3rds of the dressing. Place on a platter.
  7. In a medium bowl, place the roasted squash, half of the pepitas, and most of the rest of the cilantro (reserve some for garnish). Mix the remainder of the dressing with the squash and spoon over the top of the quinoa.
  8. Garnish the top with the remaining cilantro and pepitas.

Roasted Butternut Squash

Roasted Butternut Squash

*I bought my Aroma rice cooker at Costco and I love it. It’s the exact same one as the Amazon affiliate link, same price too.


Post image for Pears Poached in Red Wine with Orange Cardamom Sabayon

It doesn’t feel like autumn yet here in Southern California, but pears are in the markets and pumpkin spice is everywhere (gah!). In a previous post I wrote about cooking with wine and liquor and this elegant dessert doubles your fun with wine; the pears are poached in it and the sweet custard sauce is made with it as well.

Start with pears that are ripe, but still somewhat firm and unbruised (you want them to be pretty, don’t you?). While it thankfully doesn’t have pumpkin spice, the cinnamon, orange and cardamom do give it a fall/winter/holiday feel. In fact, this dish would work well for a holiday dinner because the pears can be made in advance.

The recipe is highly adaptable; this one uses orange and spices but feel free to swap out with different types of citrus, use a white wine for poaching (though the pears are very pretty when they turn red) or try different spices (allspice, nutmeg, vanilla bean). The same can be said for the sabayon; use any kind of white wine, even champagne. If you use marsala (an Italian sweet wine), you’ll be making the Italian version, called zabaglione.

Tip; if you have whole cardamom pods and are wondering how to get the seeds out and grind them; read this post.


Poaching the pears.


Reducing the poaching liquid to a sauce.


Eggs, orange zest and cardamom for the sabayon.


Making the sabayon.

Pears Poached in Red Wine with Orange Cardamom Sabayon


    For the poaching liquid:
  • 1 750 ml bottle of red wine (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 oranges (juiced)
  • peel from 1 orange
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 6 pears, peeled, stem on
  • For the Orange Cardamom Sabayon
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground cardamom


    To poach the pears:
  1. Peel the pears and leave the stem on.
  2. Combine the wine, water, sugar, orange juice, orange peel and spices in a sauce pot large enough to hold the 6 pears snuggly and deep enough so that the pears are covered in the liquid.
  3. Bring the liquid to a simmer and then gently submerge the pears. Poach the pears until they are tender when pierced with a fork on the bottom. Time will vary depending on the ripeness of the pears (approximately 15-30 minutes).
  4. If not serving the pears right away, refrigerate them in the syrup. Serve chilled or warmed.
  5. Option to make syrup:
  6. Remove the pears from the poaching liquid and continue to simmer the liquid until it reduces to a syrup which will coat the back of a spoon. The syrup can be used on the pears, over ice cream, or even as a sauce in a savory dish with fish or seared sea scallops.
  7. To make the sabayon:
  8. Whisk together all ingredients in a large heat proof bowl. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water.
  9. Whisk the egg mixture until frothy and it begins to thicken into a thin custard. It should coat the back of a spoon.


Poached pear in red wine.

{ 1 comment }

Cold Soba Noodles with Grilled Tofu

September 7, 2015
Thumbnail image for Cold Soba Noodles with Grilled Tofu

In 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I was honored to contribute a recipe to a cookbook sold to raise money for disaster relief in Japan. While I posted about the book here, I did not post the recipe. Now, the book is no longer available and it’s time to share the recipe. The […]

Read the full article →

Classic Coleslaw Recipe

August 29, 2015
Thumbnail image for Classic Coleslaw Recipe

Labor Day is soon upon us and with it the last hurrah of summer. It’s time for one last picnic, one last barbeque, and one last salad, before Autumn sets in and with it the warming soups and stews of colder weather. What better to go with that picnic or barbeque than the classic coleslaw? […]

Read the full article →

Tips for Cooking With Wine and Spirits

August 22, 2015
Thumbnail image for Tips for Cooking With Wine and Spirits

For as long as people have been making wine, they have been using it in cooking to enhance the flavor of their food. Ancient Romans used wine in their cooking and its use spread along with the empire. Today, all types of alcohol are used in cooking worldwide. Beer is often used in stews and […]

Read the full article →

Pasta with Zucchini, Fresh Sage, and Butter

July 25, 2015
Thumbnail image for Pasta with Zucchini, Fresh Sage, and Butter

Only a week ago I was sitting in a trattoria in the colorful Roman neighborhood of Trastevere, sipping a glass of chilled rosé, and tucking into a plate of homemade ravioli. My husband and I had just just spent two lovely weeks in Italy in celebration of our upcoming 20th wedding anniversary. The journey took […]

Read the full article →