As much as we love fall food—the cozy butteriness, the warm spices, the excuse (should you need one) to turn anything into a gratin—sometimes it can be a little depressing. We might gain squashes, but we lose the light-brightness of corn, of tomatoes, of berries and stone fruit at every meal and out of hand. It's easier to let the spring in one's culinary step fade behind mashes and braises.
Not so with this Red Quinoa Salad with Spicy Lime Vinaigrette, which has, yes, some of fall's regulars—you'll notice butternut squash, white beans, nutty little pumpkin seeds roasted with smoky paprika. But it's all dressed with a vinaigrette that shrugs off cold weather: Jalapeños and lime juice and cilantro nudge the salad awake. Awake! It's not winter yet:
15 ounces cooked white beans or 1 can, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
We're assuming you already have salt, freshly cracked black pepper, 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, and 3 tablespoons canola oil, but if not, add them to your list too!
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The Game Plan
45 minutes before dinner, preheat the oven to 350° F. Season the pumpkin seeds with olive oil and paprika and toast them on a baking sheet for 8 minutes, until golden. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool while you crank the oven to 400° F. Toss the butternut squash in olive oil, salt, and pepper on the sheet pan you've just used and roast for 30 to 35 minutes.
While the squash roasts, make the quinoa: Toast it in a saucepan for a couple minutes, add 2 cups water, and salt well before bringing to a boil, reducing to a simmer, covering, and cooking 15 minutes. Mix the vinaigrette by combining the shallot, garlic, jalapeño, lime zest and juice, lemon juice, red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Slowly whisk in the canola and olive oil.
Right before sitting down, build your salad. Fluff the quinoa and combine it with half of the toasted pumpkin seeds, roasted squash, white beans, a handful of cilantro, and good pour of the dressing. Garnish with remaining pumpkin seeds and more cilantro.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).