Salad season is not over. It’s never over, it just changes, like the seasons. In the summer we all crave crisp, chilled, crunchy salads. In the fall and winter, a warm and cozy salad is more like it, like this warm lentil, quinoa, and roasted acorn squash salad.
This delicious stunner was inspired by a salad that I ordered at Restoration Hardware Chicago’s restaurant, 3 Arts Club Café. They don’t actually call it a salad as it’s under the, “vegetable” portion of their menu, but when it came to the table I definitely thought that it looked like a salad. A lovely, tasty, satisfying salad. It was as beautiful as the restaurant itself. If you get the chance to go, you absolutely should. It’s on the first floor of the store, which doesn’t feel like a store at all. It feels like a luxurious home, filled with gorgeous rooms, filled with chic furniture and exquisite art. Each floor is a feast for the eyes and your home decorating imagination. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that you can buy a glass of wine and take it with you while you wander through the multiple floors of magnificent. Take a look, because I can’t do this place justice with my words. Click here to check it out.
So I made this warm roasted butternut squash salad with quinoa and lentils many months after I ordered that unforgettable salad. It has been my intention ever since I took the first bite to replicate it and share it with you, but life, and the change of seasons got in the way. It wasn’t until last week that I felt like this would be the perfect time to make it. I’m happy I waited because I had to dig deep into my memory to remember the flavors of the dressing, unfortunately, I could only remember the mint. There was a subtle taste of mint in that salad dressing that made it come to life. But other than the mint, I couldn’t recall the other herbs that the chef had used. It turned out that this time, my memory fail wasn't a bad thing, because it forced me to play around with the fresh herbs that are still growing in my garden, and I’m really happy with what I came up with, and I think that you will be too.
There is so much texture in this quinoa and lentil salad, and that’s one of the things that makes it so good. The lentils are a bit chewy, the quinoa is fluffy, the pistachios are crunchy, the dried tart cherries are chewier than the lentils, and the roasted acorn squash is almost creamy. The flavors are just as exciting! You’ll get savory, sweet, earthy, and tangy. Every ingredient in this warm salad compliments the others and it will satisfy whatever craving you may be having. Balance perfected.
This roasted squash salad has so much going for it in the way of taste and texture, but it also has something else that’s so important to me and my readers. It’s really healthy! It’s packed full of protein, and complex carbohydrates, and antioxidants, and vitamins. How could it not be? I mean, hello quinoa! Hi there lentils! Oh, hey pistachios! What’s up, acorn squash? How you doing, spinach? This is one big dish of SUPERFOODS! A few bites of this warm and cozy lentil and quinoa salad is going to make you feel like a big and strong monster! Hyperbole? Maybe a little. But seriously folks, it’s hard to find something that tastes this good and is this good for you.
Oh right, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a little shout-out to the sage and mint dressing. SO GOOD! Fresh sage, meets maple syrup, orange juice, white wine vinegar, and a pinch of fresh mint. Ooh la la! The sage and maple syrup sings autumn, and the wee bit of mint adds a wonderful twist to the combination. It’s not the same as the one that was on the salad I had at 3 Arts Club Café, because I couldn’t remember all of the ingredients in that one; however, I’m impressed with how all of these lovelies came together, so I’m not fretting it.
Try my warm acorn squash, lentil, and quinoa salad with sage dressing, then come back and tell me how you liked it. And if you get the chance, try 3 Arts Club Café’s salad for comparison and shop the Restoration Hardware store. Make sure to get a glass of wine to take with you while you drool over the amazing rooms.
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Warm Acorn Squash, Lentil, & Quinoa Salad with Sage Dressing
For the Salad:
- 1 large acorn squash – cut into wedges and seeded
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil optional
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup of lentils plus 4 cups of water – sort and rinse the lentils
- 1 cup of quinoa plus 2 cups of water – rinse the quinoa well
- 1 cup of coarsely chopped spinach
- 1 cup of shelled pistachios
- 1 cup of dried tart cherries or cranberries
- Salt and pepper to taste
- For the Dressing:
- ½ cup of white wine vinegar
- Juice from one large orange –approximately ¼ cup
- 3 tablespoons of fresh minced sage
- 1 teaspoon of fresh minced mint
- 1 teaspoon of pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil optional
- ¼ teaspoon of ground sea salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400°
- Cut the acorn squash in half and remove the seeds. Cut into one inch thick wedges and lay on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle sea salt and black pepper over them. Roast for approximately 40 minutes or until they begin to caramelize and can be pierced with a fork. They should be firm enough to cut into cubes. Let cool until you can cut the squash into cubes. Make sure cut the meat of the squash away from the skin.
- While the squash is cooking make the lentils. Bring the four cups of water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add the lentils and cover with a tight lid, reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 to 35 minutes or until the water is evaporated. The lentils should be firm and chewy. When the lentils are done add the chopped spinach to the pan, stir, and cover so the spinach wilts.
- While the lentils are cooking make the quinoa. Make sure to rinse it well before cooking so it doesn’t have a soapy taste. Bring 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa to a boil in a small sauce pan. When the water is boiling cover with a tight fitting lid and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until the water is evaporated.
- Add the lentils and spinach, quinoa, pistachios, and dried cherries, to a large salad bowl and toss with a bit of ground sea salt and black pepper. Make the dressing.
- For the Dressing:
- Put the vinegar, orange juice, sage, mint, maple syrup, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl or a glass jar with a lid and whisk or shake until well combined. Drizzle over the salad and toss until well combined.
- Add the cubed acorn squash and gently fold into the salad.