Roast the squash (see notes): Place squash cubes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle the squash with olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons of maple syrup, thyme, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon ground pepper. Toss to coat. Place in the oven and roast for 22-25 minutes, tossing halfway through cooking. Scatter the cranberries onto the pan and continue to roast for 5 minutes, or until squash is tender and lightly caramelized. Remove from oven and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
While the squash is roasting, make the dressing: In a bowl whisk the vinegar, 1 tablespoon shallots, 2 1/2 tablespoons of maple syrup, mustard, thyme, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking to emulsify. ALTERNATIVELY: Add the dressing ingredients to a jar, seal jar and shake vigorously to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside.
Assemble the salad: In a large salad bowl, add the arugula and enough dressing to coat the lettuce. Toss. Add the quinoa, apple slices, walnuts, parmesan and remaining diced shallots. Toss again to combine. Add the roasted squash with cranberries and dressing to taste. Very gently toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature with any remaining dressing on the side. Enjoy!
If using whole squash, microwave it for easy peeling!
Slice off both ends (top and bottom) of the squash using a sharp chef's knife.
Use a fork to pierce shallow holes all around the squash.
Microwave the squash for 1 to 2 minutes (depending on the strength of your microwave). You don't want to actually cook the squash, you just want to soften the skin.
Allow squash to cool and then proceed to peel it.
To keep prep time at 15 minutes, use packaged, peeled and diced butternut squash. Prepared butternut squash can be found in the refrigerated produce section of most major grocery stores.
You can use your favorite type of quinoa - white, red, or black. I used a tri-color blend. To cut down on prep the day of, I make the quinoa in advance. Store cooked quinoa in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (See below for how to cook perfect quinoa!)
While you can use any variety of apple in this salad, green apples pair best with butternut squash. And, specifically tart Granny Smith apples add the best layer of flavor!
When roasting the squash cubes, make sure you do not overcrowd the pan or the squash will steam instead of roast. If necessary, use two baking sheets and rotate the pans from top to bottom halfway through roasting.
Make ahead tips:
You can peel and dice the squash a few days in advance. Store cubed squash in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
You can roast the squash a day in advance and then reheat it when ready to serve. To make the squash in advance, follow the directions in the recipe, making sure to roast the squash until just slightly al dente, about 18-20 minutes. When ready to serve, roast the squash for 12-15 minutes, or until fork tender and heated through, adding the cranberries to the pan during the last 5 minutes.
The dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance.
To cook perfect quinoa: (Method from cookieandkate.com)
Rinse 1 cup of dry quinoa in a fine mesh strainer with cool water and drain well.
Transfer quinoa to a saucepan and add 2 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook quinoa, stirring occasionally, until all of the water is absorbed, about 12 minutes, reducing heat as necessary.
Remove pan from heat and cover. Let the quinoa steam, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove lid, fluff and season generously with salt and pepper. Proceed with recipe.
*Nutritional information is an approximation and includes salad plus the dressing