Heartbeet Kitchen
Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing
October 14, 2014 in Dairy-Free · Fall · Gluten-Free · Main Dish · Salad · Vegan · Vegetables · 44 Comments

Wild Rice & Butternut Squash Salad {gf, vegan}I know you may be tired of me evangelizing about squash. But please hold on! The best is here.

Several lovely blogging friends are helping me share a whole week of winter squash recipes from my book, Smitten with Squash, and we’re all giving you a chance to win a copy for your own kitchen. When you take a peak at the Gluten-Free Delicata Donuts or the Fresh Herb & Gruyere Spaghetti Squash Saute, I think you’ll fall in love with the curcubit family as much as I have.

For this week of #SquashLove, I thought I’d share one of my favorite recipes from the book, this vibrant & nourishing Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad. I also thought it would be fun to answer 3 of the questions people ask me about my writing and this vegetable I’m so smitten with.

Wild Rice & Butternut Squash Fall Salad

A whole book on squash? Why?

When my publisher contacted me in early 2013 about writing a book for their Northern Plate Series, each being a cookbook and resource guide on a single Midwest ingredient that has been a strong part of our culture, I immediately knew my proposal would be on squash. Living inn an area where growing seasons are short and very unpredictable, squash is one of the only families that is nearly “in-season” all year round. Between the long and slender summer squash varieties, to the thick skinned blue hubbards and kabochas that last for months when cellared properly, the curcubit family holds a special place in my heart. They bring a sense of comfort and nostalgia, like your grandmother’s buttery zucchini bread or a butternut and sage pasta that warms your soul in the middle of winter.

And then there’s the possibility of new ideas that I found so delicious and eye opening. Like how wonderful red kuri can be when braised in an ethopian spiced peanut stew or the silkiness that blue hubbard adds to a cinnamon spiced pudding, topped with macadamia nuts for good measure.

I’d like to cook with squash more, but prepping/cutting it up is a little scary and a lot of work. Do you have any tips?

Many varieties of winter squash are wobbly, dense and tough to break open. When I was creating all of these recipes, I quickly found out that safety and efficiency in working with them was going to be key, as well as something I wanted to help you with. You’ll find lots of information on that in the book, and here’s a one minute video that I filmed with Jennifer Simonson of MPR (she’s so talented!) on how to easily cut & prep a butternut squash:

I also spent some time with The Kitchn, sharing my 7 tips to easily cut and prep any winter squash, not just butternut. You can find that article here. In short, it comes down to two key things: a very sharp knife & stabalization.

how to cut & dice butternut squash

Acorn and butternut are the only squashes I’ve tried. What other types do you suggest I explore?

Butternut and acorn are no slouch in the squash family, but we tend to make those all the time because they’re familiar. However, one of the reasons I wrote the book was to introduce people to the other delicious varieties that farmers are growing. Most of the time people see a kabocha, delicata or blue hubbard, they’re a little unsure of what they taste like or how to prepare them so they pass them by. It’s kind of like how people used to perceive weird looking or oddly colored tomatoes. Once you try one, you’ll fall in love with the unique differences in taste and texture. Challenge yourself this year by picking one up that you’ve never cooked with and experiment. That was the way I started, and my book can help guide you through using them in the kitchen.

On a side note, I think squash is the new pumpkin in terms of seasonal baking. Less water content and starchier flesh makes the puree a wonder to work with. Give that a whirl and let me know what you think.

Wild Rice & Butternut Squash Salad {gf, vegan}And here’s a chance for you to win your own copy of the book! Just enter using the widget below from now until Wednesday, October 22nd at 11:59pm. Open to US residents only. Thanks for all your support with the book and your embrace of #squashlove. xo -ENDED-

Wild Rice & Butternut Squash Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing
from the Smitten with Squash Cookbook
serves 6

I adore this splendid autumn salad that includes some of Minnesota’s very best natural ingredients. Butternut squash works well for this dish because it holds its shape beautifully after being roasted. The combination of nutty wild rice, a simple maple dressing, and fresh herbs are not only delicious together, but their vibrant colors combine to make one stunning dish.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or sunflower oil
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, minced
Prepare dressing by pureeing all ingredients with an immersion blender or by vigorously whisking

2 1/2 cups peeled and finely chopped butternut squash
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt
black pepper
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced kale (lightly massaged) or spinach
1/2 cup thinly sliced leeks, both white and green parts
1/2 cup dried cherries (or dried cranberries)
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
3 cups cooked wild rice, warmed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto a baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes, stirring once, until fork tender. In a large bowl, combine spinach, leeks, cherries and basil. Stir in warm rice and squash so that spinach wilts slightly from the heat. Stir dressing (recipe below) into salad; taste and adjust salt level if needed. Serve at room temperature.

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44 thoughts on “Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing

    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      Hooray! Let me know which squash you experiment with. I’ve got a red kuri peanut stew on the docket for tonight’s dinner. Thanks for stopping by Sarah :)

    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      Ksenia, thanks for stopping by and watching the video! I always feel useful when I am able to incorporate the whole plant into my cooking. have a great weekend!

    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      Thank you Joyti, and I’m so glad you stopped by as I hopped on over to your site and I love it. Such beautiful work. And on a side note, San Fran is my dream city. Jealous :) Hope the video above helps with cutting up winter squash, I know it can be a litte frustrating.

  1. Julia | Orchard Street Kitchen

    Ooh, this salad looks lovely! I bet it would be a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving. I really enjoy squash, but haven’t branched out into the lesser-known varieties yet. Once I do, I will be going back to this video to figure out the prep work involved – what a great resource!

  2. Caroline

    I’m thrilled to have found you! Congratulations on your beautiful book! Butternut squash is a favorite of mine, so I’m super excited about it! This salad is just gorgeous!

    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      Caroline, i’m so glad you left this note – I had just discovered you literally minutes ago after you started following me on twitter. I love squash + five spice so when I saw it on your blog I was excited that we think alike! And that coconut shrimp soup looks amazing too. Happy we’ve connected!

  3. Rita Lovejoy

    I’m trying this tonight! I just made Roasted Butternut Squash Soup this weekend and it was delicious! We’re going low sodium these day so looking for new recipes with good seasonings.

  4. John

    This salad is fantastic!! We made it tonight and are eating it in about 5 min (of course I had to taste it before dinner :) ). Thanks for the tips on squash cutting too. Very well placed video!

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  8. Alisa

    Hi Amanda!
    Just made your Brussel Sprouts and Squash w/orange last night! AMAZING! and tonight because we had the stuff from our CSA I made the Wild Rice/Butternut Squash Salad-so GOOD!!!!!! My family is in LOVE with both. One question…in the salad did you cook the leeks at all or did you just wash and chop them and put them in raw. This year is the first time I have ever cooked with leeks, so I just wilted them a little in a pan while the rice cooked. Can’t wait to try you brussel sprout/kale w/ tofu recipe!!! so glad I found your website.

    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      Alisa, this is so great to hear! Thank you for sharing, you made my day. I put the leeks in raw – they are a sweeter type of the onion family so I think they give great flavor. But cooking them a little is nice too! Enjoy your thanksgiving, oh and I was going to mention, I have a giveaway for my squash book going on in this post if you want to enter for more squash recipes :) http://heartbeetkitchen.com/2014/recipes/homemade-gluten-free-apple-pie/

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        1. Amanda Paa Post author

          Kaitlin, thank you for coming back to let me know you enjoy the wild rice salad! It’s all good to hear what other people think :) Have a great rest of the week!

          1. Sarah

            I am Kaitlin’s SIL – she shared this during both holidays. Just returned to MN, and made my own batch with roasted red onions instead of leeks and toasted pecans instead of cranberries – a new favorite, and so healthy!!! Can’t wait to try more of your recipes!

  11. Rebecca

    I just made this last night. It was wonderful! I modified it just a little bit – I had leftover roasted garlic so I used a clove of it in the dressing and I crushed some walnuts into the salad for a crunch factor.
    Everyone was impressed by the salad and the delicious dressing.
    Thank you for a gluten-free, healthy and flavorful recipe!

    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      Hi Melissa, thanks for stopping by! You definitely can use a potato peeler, but I find that a good sharp knife is much more efficient and you really don’t take away that much of the flesh. If your knife is dull, you’ll have to dig further into the flesh. Hope you’re having a great Sunday!

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  13. Janelle Engstrom

    I absolutely love this salad. It’s perfectly balanced, healthy and delicious! I leave out the leeks because I personally don’t love them, and the salad is still excellent. So grateful we stumbled upon this and look forward to trying more of your genius recipes.

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  15. Barbara

    I am making this dish today for a gathering after a funeral tomorrow. Should I mix it all together today or wait until tomorrow before I go thanks

    1. amandapaa Post author

      Hi! You should mix it all today, while the wild rice is still warm as that is key for it to soak up the dressing and really infuse the flavors. Once all mixed, let it cool to room temp, then refrigerate, and take out an hour before serving to come to room temp.


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