Fall is my favorite time of year for salads. I love to top them with warm roasted squash, thick creamy homemade dressings and seasonal and colorful ingredients. This salad is both beautifully vibrant and filling. It offers plant-based protein from the pecans, quinoa and tahini. I’ve been enjoying this salad all fall and am excited to finally share this family favorite recipe with you.
Roasted delicata squash seems to be the epitome of autumn vegetables according to social media lately. I find it to be delicious, hearty and satisfying. It absorbs flavors well and is quick to cook.
Delicata squash is an easy squash to work with. When roasted you can eat the skin so you don’t have to fuss with peeling it. In this recipe I leveraged pecans and maple syrup to infuse the squash with fall flavors. The roasted pecan crumbles make it irresistible. When paired with the chewy, tart dried cranberries and the creamy maple-garlic tahini dressing it is completely addictive. The tahini-based dressing is sweet and savory. It works so well with this salad and is worth breaking out your mini food processor to quickly blend together. The recipe makes more than enough dressing so you can enjoy on future salads later.
You could prepare everything at once and pull together the dressing and salad while the squash roasts (about 15 minutes). Or, you could prepare the roasted delicata squash and dressing ahead of time and throw together the salad last minute. If you go this route, be sure to warm the delicata squash in the microwave for a couple of seconds before serving on the salad. Be sure to follow the recipe instructions for how to thin out the dressing after it has been stored in the refrigerator.
This recipe would be great for Thanksgiving if you want a salad that will steal the show. If you prepare the squash and dressing ahead of time the rest is easy to pull together before the big meal.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy this salad (although not pictured here on the blog), is to shred the kale. I find it is easier to chew and enjoy that way. And it absorbs more of the dressing. To shred your kale simply place the kale in a large food processor and pulse 5-10 times until it is your desired consistency. If you go this route you may need more kale since shredded kale is less bulky. This is a great way to sneak even more greens into your diet. And, this method seems to work great for non-kale lovers. If you really are not a kale fan you could also use chopped romaine hearts. Romaine is crisp and crunchy and can stand up well against the thick dressing and hearty toppings. I have enjoyed it this way many times.
This recipe is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and refined sugar-free. You could add chickpeas for more plant-based protein if desired. If you give this salad a try, please snap a pic and tag #eatingbyelaine and @eatingbyelaine on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook so I can see you enjoying your creations.
- For the Pecan Encrusted Delicata Squash
- 1 delicata squash
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ cup finely chopped raw pecans
- For the Creamy Maple-Garlic Tahini Dressing
- ⅔ cup raw tahini (make sure it is runny and oil is mixed in well)
- ⅔ cup water
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- For the Salad
- 4-6 handfuls kale, stems removed (You may want to shred the kale in your food processor. Romaine lettuce also works well in this recipe)
- 1-2 cups cooked quinoa
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ red onion, diced (or substitute shallot)
- 1 avocado, diced (optional)
- 1 cup raw pecans
- For the Pecan Encrusted Delicata Squash: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with non-bleach parchment paper and set aside. Slice the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Slice the seeded halves into ¼-inch thick slices (half moons) and set aside. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the oil, arrowroot powder, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Place the sliced delicata squash in the mixing bowl and toss to fully coat. Place the squash on the two lined baking sheets leaving room between each slice. In a mini food processor, pulse the pecans until a course meal forms. Sprinkle the pecan crumbs generously over the delicata squash. Place both baking sheet in oven (center rack and bottom rack) and roast for 13-15 minutes until golden brown. The roasted squash will keep for up to three days in an airtight container in your refrigerator.
- For the Creamy Maple-Garlic Tahini Dressing: Blend all dressing ingredients (tahini, water, maple syrup, garlic salt and pepper) in a mini food processor until smooth and creamy. Taste and add more maple syrup, garlic, salt or pepper if desired. The consistency should be easily pourable and slightly runny. If it is too thick you can thin it out with more water. Dressing will keep in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to one week. Once stored in refrigerator it will thicken. Before using, add 1-2 tablespoons warm water and whisk vigorously until it is pourable again.
- For the Salad: To assemble the salad, place 2-3 handfuls of kale in two large bowls. Top each bowl with quinoa, dried cranberries, red onions, avocado, raw pecans and pecan encrusted delicata squash. The delicata squash should be warm when serving. Generously pour the Maple-Garlic Tahini Dressing on top of each salad and enjoy immediately. The recipe may make more dressing or squash than you need so feel free to use any extra for leftovers.