I tried to celebrate World Vegetarian Day on October 1. I really, really tried. I had found a recipe for “smoked eggplant” in an Indian cookbook and chalked it up to kismet that I had all the ingredients in the pantry. I roasted the eggplants whole on the grill, then peeled the charred skin away and cut it up in cubes. I sautéed onions, garlic, chiles and added some warming spices. The kitchen smelled amazing! And then I tasted it. It tasted like poison–acrid and so bitter! I tried to zhoosh it up with some coconut milk and fresh lime juice, but it would not budge and remained wholly inedible. There was no saving it, and so we ate chicken…on World Vegetarian Day. I hate when that happens.
Eggplant disasters aside, I am no stranger to vegetarian cooking and I’ve been a vegetarian and a vegan at different points in my life. So, with October being Vegetarian Awareness Month, I want to be mindful of incorporating more meatless meals into our weekly rotation. Let me be completely honest–I won’t be giving up meat entirely in October. I love my veggies, but I also love meat and October is just too full of fun ways to eat it! I’m not so sure I want to pass up chilies, stews and bratwursts this time of year! Now that it’s starting to cool down, I’m beginning to crave more sturdy vegetables–root vegetables, kale, Brussels sprouts, for example; and lately, I’ve been majorly crushing on Delicata Squash.
Mildly sweet and quite similar in flavor to butternut squash, but they bake so quickly and the best thing is that they don’t require peeling! After roasting, the skin is quite tender. They are like butternut squash’s low drama cousin–sweet, easygoing and perfect to add to an autumn salad! I’ve been finding them everywhere–from the farmer’s market to the regular grocery store.
This salad is such a powerhouse–crunchy, nutty quinoa, hearty kale, bright bursts of pomegranate, cranberries and pine nuts! Once you’ve topped it with slices of maple roasted squash and tossed it with a lemony tahini dressing–I’m willing to bet that you’re going to forget that it’s meatless! It’s a salad that can be both a side dish or a complete meal and it also happens to be Vegan and gluten-free! Perfect for Meatless Monday!
This salad is super flexible. I’ll tell you how I make it, and then you can add and subtract components according to your preference. When I’m making salads I always hear a little voice in my head that says: “Edit, Tracey! Don’t throw the entire pantry into it!” But that’s my thing–I like an epic grain salad! The quinoa is cooked just like pasta–in a pot of rapidly boiling, salted water and it only takes 10 minutes! By cooking the quinoa this way, the grains are fluffy and retain a bit of crunch. Simply slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and roast it in the oven. After about 15 minutes, toss them with a drizzle of maple syrup–they’ll get golden and sweet and you’ll find yourself popping into your mouth like snacks! Just be sure to save some for the salad. I threw in pomegranate arils** for a little burst of tartness. I also added some dried cranberries and lightly toasted pine nuts for crunch. And the dressing! So amazing–creamy tahini, lemon juice, more maple syrup (because it’s Autumn) and garlic. It’s an unbelievably delicious combination that was inspired by Sara Forte’s Tahini Dressing recipe The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook. I like eating this salad slightly warm, but it packs and refrigerates exceptionally well.
Autumn Quinoa and Kale Salad with Maple Roasted Delicata Squash
Tahini Dressing inspired by The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook
- 1 1/2 cups quinoa, uncooked and rinsed in a fine mesh strainer (I mixed red and white quinoa for aesthetic purposes)
- 2 Delicata Squash, seeds removed and flesh sliced into 1/2 inch slices
- 1 large bunch, lacinato (dinosaur) kale
- Arils from 1 pomegranate**
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
- 2 tablespoons dried cranberries (optional)
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- ground cumin
- maple syrup
- 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
- olive oil and sea salt
For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 small cloves garlic, pressed or grated
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1-3 tablespoons water (as needed)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Toss the squash slices with the coconut oil and spread them evenly on a baking sheet. Season the squash lightly with salt, pepper and cumin. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the slices over and drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons of the maple syrup. Cook for 5 minutes more, then remove from the oven and set aside to cool. While the squash is baking, prepare the quinoa and the kale.
- Wash the kale, remove the ribs and chop into fairly small pieces. Place the kale in a salad bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Massage the salt and oil into the kale and set it aside.
- Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil and add a generous pinch of salt. Add the rinsed quinoa and boil for 10 minutes, or until it becomes translucent and the germ spirals from the kernel. Drain the quinoa in a mesh strainer and allow it to cool for a bit before adding it to the kale in the salad bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing. Add a little water, one tablespoon at a time until the dressing is the consistency that you prefer.
- Toss the quinoa with the kale, then add the pomegranate arils, pine nuts and cranberries, if using. Toss with the tahini dressing and top with the roasted squash.
NOTE: **I learned an easy way to remove the arils from a pomegranate. Slice the pomegranate in half around its equator and separate the two halves. Hold the pomegranate half over a bowl in the palm of your hand, cut side down. With a wooden spoon, repeatedly smack the back of the pomegranate until all of the arils have fallen into the bowl. Repeat with the second half of the pomegranate. Rinse, then remove the bits and pieces of membrane from the arils. It’s super simple and no stained fingers!