I realized over the weekend how excited I am about salads for this time of year. Salad in the colder months of fall and winter is a different beast than a bright, refreshing plate of summer produce tossed in olive oil. They’re big and bold; they have heft and weight and substance. And I think that I almost prefer it that way. Perhaps because there’s a challenge in creating an appealing salad that fits with the mood and the tone of the season. In summer, salad is easy and expected, whereas in fall and winter the produce is dense, rooty, starchy, the merit of the vegetables a little less straightforward. They require a little coaxing. I love it.
On Saturday I visited New Family Farm in Sebastopol with 18 Reasons. My ever-present pastoral Sebastopol fantasies notwithstanding, the visit was inspiring. It’s easy to cast a rose-colored patina over farm life, but I doubt anybody would call the work itself easy. I appreciated how open they were in discussing the challenges of beginning and sustaining and learning about the business of farming. And I appreciated their idealism. We need idealistic people in the world to keep fighting, uphill, that good fight. Like growing vegetables that we can believe in.
18 Reasons fed us a gorgeous lunch with produce from the farm – roasted delicata squash and roasted kale and quinoa dressed with oregano and chile. And that’s exactly what inspired this salad. I had Thanksgiving in mind with the big flavors going on here: smoky chills, paprika, fresh lime, toasted nuts, sweet cranberries, sweet-spicy squash, nutty quinoa and earthy kale to pull it all together. I had a hard time giving this salad a name that captured its bigness. And so, a big and beautiful harvest salad for the colder months.
A BIG, BEAUTIFUL HARVEST SALAD WITH DELICATA SQUASH AND KALE
For the squash
2 delicata squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
For the salad
1/2 cup red quinoa
3/4 cup water
1 bunch curly purple kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lime
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ancho powder
2 small garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/2 cup shelled pepitas
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the delicate squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and reserve. (Roast the seeds, tossed in salt, at 300 degrees in a toaster oven until crisped and golden.)
Slice the squash halves into crescents. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the paprika, chipotle powder, and sea salt. Toss the squash with the oil mix. Arrange the squash in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast until browned and tender, turning once, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
In a small pot with a lid, add the quinoa, water, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, covered, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool
While the squash roasts, prepare the dressing. Whisk together the lime juice and zest, 5 tablespoons olive oil, maple syrup, cumin, ancho chile powder, garlic cloves and a pinch of sea salt. In a large mixing bowl, toss the dressing with the kale, working it into the leaves with your fingers. Set aside.
Toast the pepitas in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown and pop, about 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
To make the salad, combine the quinoa, pepitas, and cotija cheese with the dressed kale. Top with the delicata squash and cranberries. Serve at room temperature.
by Kimberley Hasselbrink