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Quinoa and Butternut Citrus Salad

By Bonnie Saul Wilks, MJBI Staff Writer

Queen Esther is said to have eaten a vegetarian diet while living in the king’s palace. In her honor, many people serve a meatless meal for their Purim feast. Tradition says that Esther’s diet consisted of nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. This is one explanation behind the custom to eat poppy seeds during the holiday, which show up most famously in the traditional hamantaschen or Haman’s ears’ cookie filling.

Here’s a hearty vegetarian salad with seeds and grains that makes an excellent main or side dish for Purim or anytime.


Quinoa and Butternut Citrus Salad

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon good quality olive oil

1 1/2 pounds butternut squash (peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2″ cubes, about 3-1/2 cups)

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 cups water (or vegetable stock)

2 cups baby arugula, rinsed and spun dry

1 small red onion, diced

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 small can of mandarin oranges, drained

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds


For the Vinaigrette:

Juice of one fresh lime

5 tablespoons orange juice, plus 2 tsp orange zest

3 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin)

2 tablespoons honey

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon powdered cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Place the butternut squash cubes in a large roasting pan or baking dish and drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Toss to coat. Spread the squash cubes into a single layer. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the squash is tender and beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.


  1. While the squash is roasting, make the quinoa: Warm 1 tsp of olive oil in a heavy medium saucepan set over medium-high heat.


  1. Add the quinoa, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula until toasted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water or stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.


  1. Remove the quinoa from the heat, fluff with a fork, and transfer to a large bowl. Add the roasted squash, arugula, onion, parsley, walnuts, orange juice with zest, and toss together. (Don’t worry if the heat from the quinoa wilts the arugula.)


  1. In a small bowl or pitcher, whisk together the lime juice, orange juice, olive oil, honey, garlic, cumin, and salt. Pour over the quinoa salad and toss well to coat. Garnish the salad with the pomegranate seeds. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Enjoy!