Seeking some refreshing vegetarian inspiration this winter, we created this colorful rice salad featuring bold Middle Eastern ingredients. The hearty nuttiness of red rice and the sweetness of squash is balanced by a hit of acidity from a preserved lemon vinaigrette and the lingering heat of Aleppo pepper. Pomegranate seeds contribute nice juicy pop and crunch. This dish could stand alone as a vegetarian lunch or be served as a side for roast chicken or other meats.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a medium bowl, toss the butternut squash with the onion, olive oil, Aleppo pepper, salt and pepper. Spread the squash mixture out onto a baking sheet in one even layer. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the squash is tender and the onions are golden brown.
While the squash is roasting, make the vinaigrette by whisking together the lemon juice, honey, preserved lemon, cilantro and olive oil. Set aside.
To assemble, combine the cooked red rice, roasted butternut squash mixture and vinaigrette in a large bowl. Season with more salt and pepper, if necessary. Transfer the salad to a serving platter or bowl and top with crumbled feta, pomegranate seeds and cilantro leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.
*Cook red rice as you would pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for 25-30 minutes.