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Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash, Feta, & Cranberries

For Christmas last year I received a copy of the book Ottawa Cooks, by Anne DesBrisay (a local Ottawa food writer). It's a collection of signature recipes from the finest chefs of Canada's capital region, and it's wonderful. After looking at all of the pages, reading the carefully crafted messages and musings for each chef/restaurant, and making a list of all the recipes I'd like to try in the near future, it's high time I tried my hand at some Ottawa greatness. I was instantly drawn to the Bridgehead recipes, a few other restaurants too, but Bridgehead has made it's way into my heart and my stomach on a weekly, if not sometimes daily basis for years.

This salad is one of my favourite lunch-time options. It's filling and satisfying, it is well balanced as it has both sweet and salty components, and generally just makes me feel like I'm doing something right.

Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash, Feta, & Cranberries

Quinoa Salad

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups cold water

1 large or 2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch chunks

1 red onion, diced

1 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup dried cranberries (sweetened or unsweetened)

2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Spiced Cider Dressing

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp ground nutmeg

2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp dijon mustard

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups canola oil (I used significantly less)

In a medium pot, combine quinoa, salt and water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes, until grains are cooked through and fluffy but still intact. Remove from heat and let cook completely.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place squash and onions in a large bowl, add olive oil and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are golden brown and yield to a knife. While the vegges are roasting, prepare the dressing.

In a dry frying pan over medium heat, toast cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, cardamom and nutmeg until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. In a medium bow, whisk together the toasted spices, salt, sugar, mustard, and vinegar. While still whisking, slowly drizzle the canola oil in a steady stream to create an emulsion.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa with the roasted veggies, feta, cranberries and parsley. Add dressing to taste, and toss gently. It seems like way too much dressing, but it isn't, the quinoa will soak up the rest of it. If keeping overnight, reserve some of the dressing to add just before serving.

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