Do you ever make dishes that sound like they're meant for one season, but actually can be good in another season? Last week I did just that.
I had a butternut squash that needed to be used, but I really wasn't sure how I wanted to use it. I also had some red quinoa stashed in the freezer, so I started to think about ways to incorporate the quinoa with the squash. I decided that a salad sounded good.
I know that it's spring, but it sure isn't feeling much like spring around here. So the comforting flavors of fall actually sounded appealing. I love the sweetness of butternut squash pared with the tartness of dried cranberries. But I also really like some spice to my food.
I ended up trying out a new marinade/dressing for tofu using maple syrup, something I almost never use unless a specific recipe calls for it. But maple syrup, butternut squash and cranberries sounded more like a desert. This is where the chipotle peppers come into play. The smoky heat helps offset the sweetness of the other ingredients without being over-powering.
Chipotle Maple Tofu Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
1 package extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
1 small butternut squash
1/2 cup no-salt vegetable broth
2-3 tbsp minced red onion
3 - 3 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1-2 tbsp dried chipotle peppers flakes (could also use chipotle in adobo)
1 tbsp parsley
Salt, to taste
1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
Several handfuls of fresh spinach (could also use frozen or even kale)
2 cups red quinoa, cooked
Toasted pecans, chopped (optional and as many as you prefer)
1/4 - 1/3 cup dried cranberries
Whisk together broth, onions, maple syrup, chipotle peppers, parsley, salt, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard. Poor over tofu and allow to marinate at least 1 hour or overnight. Reserve the marinade to use as a dressing.
When tofu has marinated, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Peel, remove seeds and cube butternut squash. Toss with small drizzle of olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake approximately 20 minutes, stir and bake an additional 15-20 until tender. At the same time, bake your tofu flipping once halfway through and baking until golden and firm.
Prepare quinoa according to package instructions.
While the quinoa is warm, toss with spinach and cranberries so that it helps wilt the lettuce and soften the cranberries. Set aside to cool. When the tofu and butternut squash are ready, toss with the quinoa, add in the pecans and any remaining chipotle maple marinade.
What's great about this salad is that it can be eaten warm, room temp or cold. This makes it perfect pretty much all year if you ask me. You could easily leave out the tofu and serve as a side dish. Lentils would be quite good in this as well.
Jason and I both raved about how well it turned out. I was very pleased at how perfectly all the flavors and textures played together.
I think that part of the key to a good dish is having a variety of textures and a nice depth to the flavors. It doesn't have to be complicated. You don't have to use a million ingredients to get that depth and richness, it's just about pairing the right ingredients together so that they compliment one another. Maybe a bit like a relationship no?