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’tquit 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.
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!
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.
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.
In a small bowl whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette.
To assemble the dish:
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.
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.
Garnish the top with the remaining cilantro and pepitas.
*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.