The other day Aaron and I were having a conversation about which season has the best-smelling food. Not the best all-around food—the best-smelling. And as much as I’m firmly on Team Summer for most things, I will admit that I agree with Aaron on this one: fall is the definite winner smell-wise. In the last week alone, we’ve enjoyed spicy chai tea in the mornings, baked apple cider donuts for afternoon snack, and this Stuffed Butternut Squash with Warm Quinoa Salad at dinner. It’s been wonderfully cozy.
What I love about this meal is that it’s comfort food minus the food coma. This recipe smells and tastes like Thanksgiving, but it won’t weigh you down or make you feel like you need to walk (or sleep) it off immediately after. Another positive? You can prep the quinoa salad filling in advance, which makes this recipe doable even on a busy weeknight. I made my quinoa salad a day ahead, then roasted the butternut squash the following day when I was doing my batch cooking for the upcoming week.
In addition to quinoa, the salad also includes garlic, shallots, celery, kale, chickpeas, and parsley. The dressing is a simple mix of bright lemon juice, pure maple syrup, and a pinch of red pepper flakes, topped off with roasted chopped pecans and pomegranate seeds for additional texture and sweetness. It’s vegan, gluten-free, and entirely made from whole foods, not to mention it will make your house smell like fall in the best possible way.
- ½ cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 large butternut squash
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- sea salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 3 cups chopped kale
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 small bunch parsley, chopped
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1½ tablespoons pure maple syrup
- generous pinch red pepper flakes
- ⅓ cup pomegranate seeds
- ¼ cup roasted pecans, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut the squash lengthwise down the middle. Scoop out and discard the seeds, and brush each piece with olive oil. Sprinkle with a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Place the squash cut side down on the baking sheet. Roast until tender when pierced with a fork, about 35-40 minutes depending on the size of the squash. At the 20 minute mark, turn the squash over so that it's facing cut side up. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- While the squash bakes, place the quinoa and vegetable broth in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil uncovered, then reduce the heat and let simmer covered for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the quinoa to sit for 5 more minutes, or until the broth is absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the garlic and shallots in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the celery and sauté 2 minutes longer. Add the kale and chickpeas to the pan and sauté until the kale is wilted and the chickpeas are heated through. Add the cooked quinoa, parsley, lemon juice, maple syrup, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.
- Scoop out the roasted squash leaving about ¾-inch of squash plus shell. Fill the squash with the quinoa salad mixture, allowing it to overflow generously. Top with pomegranate seeds and pecans, then slice and serve.