Quinoa with delicata squash and pecan pesto

The weather is starting to turn, and I am starting to crave the hearty meals that come with fall harvest. Our summer CSA still has another 5 weeks to go, but the offerings are starting to change. For the past couple weeks, we have been getting delicata squash, which is a sweet and soft member of the gourd family. It tastes like a sweeter acorn squash, and the cool part is that the skin is so soft that you can just eat it after you roast the squash.

I did just that after roasting it following the same technique I described for acorn squash here, but I opted for olive oil instead of butter and skipped the brown sugar since the delicata is already pretty sweet. I cut the delicata into 1″ crescent shapes after halving and seeding it, so it cooked up in around 40 minutes. Flip it halfway to get caramelization on both sides.

Squash in hand, I decided to make a quinoa salad with leeks and basil-pecan pesto. The sweetness of the squash does a great job balancing out the onion flavor from the leeks and the pesto kick.

This recipe is basically about assembling all the parts, but first you have to prep them.

Quinoa: Boil 6 cups of water in a sauce pot. Add 1 cup of quinoa and 1 tsp. of salt and simmer for 15 minutes. (Note: I used a quinoa mixture from our local food co-op, but you can go with any variety you find.) Drain the quinoa, return to pot, and put the lid back on. You can add a clean towel between the pot and the lid to soak up excess moisture. Let the steam finish cooking the quinoa for another 15 minutes. Fluff.

Leeks: For the leeks, warm 1 tbsp. olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat and add 2 sprigs of thyme. When the thyme begins to cook, add 1 cup of chopped leeks and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook the leeks, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. Cool.

Pesto: In a food processor, blend 1 packed cup of basil leaves, 1/4 cup pecans, 1/8 cup grated pecorino cheese, 1 garlic clove and about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Salt to taste.

When you’re ready to combine everything, toss the quinoa, leeks, chopped up squash and pesto in a big bowl with a little extra olive oil. Serve with extra grated pecorino.

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