Keen for Quinoa.

Autumn Salad

Autumn Salad with Zahtar Dressing

I choose red quinoa for this salad because it balances beautifully in colour with the white cauliflower, orange fleshed squash, and green kale. The more colours, the more phytochemicals and therefore a wider range of vitamins and minerals we ingest – that can never be a bad thing.

Quinoa is a seed/grain that’s gluten free and unusually for a plant based ingredient is a complete protein. This means it includes all amino acids required by the human body – just like all animal products. Result. Though – and here’s the rub – it’s not as spectacularly high in protein as many health articles would have you believe. Other little known pseudo gluten-free seed/grains amaranth and millet are actually higher so I may take my chances and explore recipes with them next.  Quinoa can make a great inclusion on any diet. Quinoa is a complex carb, but to make this veggie loaded I’ve kept the ratio of quinoa to other veg in this salad fairly low.

I recently discovered that Cavolo Nero (or Tuscan) kale is actually called Dinosaur kale here in the USA. I guess the kale leaves look a bit like a dinosaur’s skin. I can’t help wonder if a 7 yr old child made this up. Dino kale is also the sweetest of the kale varieties. This is probably why it is my favourite!

The choice of squash in this recipe is up to you, hubbard, acorn, butternut or my choice of blue kabocha. They all taste pretty similar, and add a pleasant sweetness to the dish.

Finally, I don’t need to tell you why I love zahtar. If you’ve read this blog at all in the past, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of cuisine from the Levant. You can make up a blend yourself, but for ease I chose a pre-blended mix. Zahtar is usually a mix of dried sumac, toasted sesame, thyme, sea salt & marjoram.

Definitely an Autumnal (or Fall if you prefer) kind of salad. Though clearly from my picture not Autumnal enough to warrant wearing shoes in the garden…

Autumn Salad with Zahtar Dressing

Autumn Salad with Zahtar Dressing


Autumn Vegetable & Red Quinoa Salad with Zahtar Dressing
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This plant based salad, can be prepared well in advance of eating and tastes even better the next day. The roasting of the cauliflower and squash in this recipe enhances and sweetens their flavor, whilst the Zahtar based topping lends a Middle Eastern slant.
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Serves: 6-8 as a side
  • 1 medium blue kabocha squash, skin left on, seeded and sliced into crescent shapes
  • 1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil, divided
  • ½ cup red quinoa, preferably soaked for at least 1 hour prior to use
  • 2 Tbs toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 6 leaves of dinosaur kale, stems removed, thin chiffonade
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ---
  • 6 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tsp Zahtar blend (see notes), divided
  1. Pre-heat oven to 220° C / 425° F.
  2. Toss the squash pieces in ½ Tbs coconut oil and roast on a parchment lined baking try in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until tender. Remove and cool, then chop into bite-sized pieces (stopping to remove the skin if you find the excess fibre in the skin indigestible).
  3. Turn the oven down to 200° C / 400° F. Toss the cauliflower in the remaining coconut oil and roast for 15 minutes, or until the florets start to char. Remove and cool.
  4. Meanwhile drain and rinse the soaked quinoa, then cook by placing in a saucepan with 1 & ¼ cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook covered for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Removed to a sheet pan to cool, and fluff out the grains.
  5. Whilst the vegetables cool, make up the dressing. Whisk together the oil and vinegar with the garlic, salt and 1 tsp of the Zahtar blend until emulsified.
  6. To assemble the salad - in a large bowl toss the quinoa with the squash, cauliflower, kale, pumpkin seeds (reserving a few for decoration) and pour over the dressing. Make sure the vegetables are well coated – this will help the raw kale break down a little. Season to taste.
  7. Sprinkle the finished salad with the remaining tsp of Zahtar blend and pumpkin seed.
  8. Can be eaten warm or cold and it tastes even better the next day!

What are your thoughts on quinoa? How do you prefer to cook and eat it?

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