By Nancy Smorch
A couple of weeks ago I was on Facebook and saw that my favorite West Michigan deli, Farmhouse Deli in Douglas, was serving a tasty sounding fall salad with quinoa, butternut squash, and kale, with a maple vinaigrette. I was planning on going there that day to try it, but the day got away from me and when I went to get some the next day, they were all out.
It was a cooler fall day and the sound of a warm salad with a little sweetness to it sounded perfect, so I thought I would try to make my own version of their salad. I still had a ton of kale in my garden so I thought this would be a great way to use some of it. And even though my family isn’t always big on quinoa, I thought by adding the slightly sweet maple vinaigrette, it might win them over and I’d be able to sneak lots of great veggies into them.
I had just been to the farmers market so I had some great-looking butternut squash and beets, and Frankie had harvested some of her potatoes from the garden that I though would be perfect as well. I decided I would add some toasted pecans too - they would complement everything nicely.
Then I had to figure out how to make the maple vinaigrette. I figured it would have an olive oil base with a bit of balsamic vinegar. And of course, there would be some maple syrup. I added a touch of cinnamon because that sounded like fall and then a bit of dijon mustard so it wasn’t too sweet or too vinegary.
I experimented a bit with everything until I got a taste I liked and then served it to Mike and the girls for dinner. To their surprise, they loved it! This will definitely be something I will make again and again.
Here’s what I did:
4 cups cooked quinoa (red makes the prettiest salad)
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 large potatoes, cubed
1 large beet, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup pecans toasted
1 bunch of kale, deveined, and chopped
Heat oven to 375 F. In a big bowl, mix the potatoes and butternut squash with 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil. Season with sea salt and pepper, mix until evenly coated and spread onto a baking dish. Cook in the oven for about 30 minutes or until tender.
In a separate bowl drizzle about 1 Tbsp. olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, onto the cubed beets. Mix and put in a separate baking dish in the oven to cook for about 30 minutes as well (or until desired tenderness).
Put the pecans in, yet, a separate small baking dish and put in the same oven, but only for 5-10 minutes - until just toasted and fragrant.
Heat 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil in a pan over medium heat and add the kale. Saute for about 5 minutes.
In a large serving bowl mix together the cooked quinoa, butternut squash, potatoes, beets, kale, and pecans. Drizzle with the maple vinaigrette (recipe below) - start out with a little and work up (you can always add, but you can’t take away!). Toss and taste!
Season with more salt and pepper if needed, and serve.
Maple Vinaigrette Dressing
1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
2-3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. sea salt
pepper to taste
Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk.