There is a reason why Quinoa was dubbed by the Incas as “the mother of all grains” – so much so that many of their traditions and ceremonies surrounded its harvest, cultivation & consumption. This is because this super grain is so rich in nutrients containing more complete protein than most cereal grains with very little saturated fat.
I for one have long been a big fan of Quinoa particularly as alternative to a bowl of rice. It’s naturally gluten-free, low glycemic with much more generous contents of fiber, iron and almost double the amount of protein. That’s why this grain also makes such wholesome salads! It took me awhile to perfect this recipe but it’s sure worth the experiments.
The sweetness of the Butternut squash accompanied by the tanginess of fresh Lemon Vinaigrette layered over some oven-baked asparagus that gives a light crispy texture. Deliciousness guaranteed!
1/2 cup Quinoa (soaked 1 hour prior to cooking & rinsed)
2 cups Butternut Squash (diced)
2 handfuls Baby Spinach (rinsed)
2 tbsp low fat Feta cheese (cubes or crumbled, omit if Dairy free/Vegan)
2 1/2 tbsp Pine nuts (toasted)
8-9 spears big Asparagus (discard rough bottom part of stem, brushed with olive oil)
1/2 tbsp fresh Lemon juice (or more if needed)
1 1/2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Honey (Maple syrup or Agave if Vegan)
1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp fresh Oregano (chopped finely)
Salt & Black pepper (to taste)
1-2 slices Lemon (for serving)
Pre-heat oven to 170c. Place in Butternut squash and bake for for 30 mins. Increase heat to 200c and bake for further 20 mins. Increase heat to 250c and bake for further 10 mins. Remember to keep a watchful eye towards the end and turn them around constantly. When done, remove butternut cubes from the oven and set aside to cool (don't turn off the oven, just lower heat to back down to 170c).
Cook Quinoa as per packet's instructions. When done set aside to cool.
Combine all the ingredients for the Lemon Vinaigrette, stir till the dressing is well mixed together. Set aside.
Drizzle some fresh lemon juice over the oiled asparagus spears along with some salt & pepper. Bake in the oven at 170c for approx. 10 mins or until lightly browned. Remember to turn them around so they're cooked evenly.
Meanwhile, place Quinoa in a large mixing bowl along with baked Butternut cubes, baby spinach, feta cheese and toasted pine nuts. Drizzle over the Lemon Vinaigrette and mix the salad gently
Place oven baked asparagus spears on a serving plate, spoon the Quinoa salad over it and serve with slices of Lemon for extra tanginess!