A restaurant experience of bland-looking quinoa challenged me to try to come up with something more appealing. The rinsing step gets rid of the bitter taste from the seed coating and the steaming (resting) at the end of cooking makes it fluffy. You could roast the squash separately or cook it in the pot, both are good. The roasted squash has great flavor, but for ease of preparation, the 'squash in the pot' wins. - Sally —Sally
Test Kitchen Notes
For a very clean and healthy dish with butternut squash, you should make this recipe. If you have never made quinoa before, Sally provides great instructions. I would cook the squash in the same pot, as Sally suggests, not just to save on pan washing, but also to infuse the squash flavor directly to the quinoa. I think the stock is a very important part of making this dish, so I would be leery of using plain water. I used black quinoa for my test, thinking that it would be more dramatic in color with the orange squash; I think Sally's red quinoa is more beautiful though! I love the addition of cranberry and the finish of baby spinach and toasted pumpkin seeds adds a great contrast of textures. Thanks, Sally, for this recipe. – Sagegreen —The Editors
4 as veggie meal
red onion, finely diced
2-pound butternut squash, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Put the quinoa in a bowl and cover it with cool water. Rub it between your hands and pour off most of the water. Add fresh water and repeat two or three times, until the water runs clear. Drain thoroughly in a fine-meshed strainer. Set the strainer over a bowl until you are ready to cook the quinoa.
Heat the olive oil in a large (4 to 5-quart) pot. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until it begins to soften. Stir in the chili powder and the squash and cook, stirring every so often, for 3 more minutes. Add the drained quinoa, water or stock and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, adjust the heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, set a small plate next to the stove. Pour a few drops (about 1/2 teaspoon) of olive oil into a small skillet. Heat the oil over medium heat and add the pumpkin seeds. Stir and shake the pan until the pumpkin seeds turn from green to olive to slightly golden brown. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and immediately scrape them onto the awaiting plate.
Remove the pot from the heat and add the spinach and cranberries. Cover the pot and let rest in a warm place for 10 minutes. Mix and fluff up the grains with a fork. Serve sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds.
I am a home cook,author of a couple of cookbooks and mother. I write for the Boston Globe from time to time. My "kid" just left for college and comes home for cooking lessons. Too bad he was completely uninterested in the process (except when he was little and gingerbread was involved) until now. Without Mom to cook, he's very, very hungry. But it's fun to keep bonding over the stove.
I blog about food and life at www.sallypasleyvargas.com