Salads. Love ’em or hate ’em. I used to be a hater, I admit; the word ‘salad’ conjured up images of flavourless iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers that could barely fill up a rabbit – that, or bitter greens drowned in vinaigrette. Ugh. Fortunately, I learnt that there is so much more to salad than lettuce and raw veg – warm ingredients! Nuts! Cheeses! I started seeing exciting salads in restaurants and on food blogs (Sarah Becan’s comic, Sauceome, fuelled my salad excitement quite a lot). I began my love affair with spinach and roasted vegetables. It made sense. It was time to start making fun salads. I think my first venture was an overly optimistic garlic prawn / honey-roasted pear / parmesan / prosciutto / walnut / spinach number, which, although tasty, was loaded down with ingredients that didn’t necessarily go together. I basically walked through the supermarket adding things that I thought would be good in a salad. Yesterday’s salad, though, was something I’d had in my head and been keen to make for some time. Presenting:
Roast Pumpkin, Hazelnut and Goat’s Cheese Salad
- 125g pumpkin
- 25g hazelnuts
- 30g goat’s cheese (chevre)
- A couple of handfuls of mixed leaves of your choice (I went with rocket and spinach)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Squeeze of lemon juice
Chop up the pumpkin and pop it in the microwave in boiling water for 4 minutes (this way, it won’t take ages to soften when you roast it). Preheat the oven to 180C. Prepare your vinaigrette – combine the olive oil, balsamic, a little squeeze of lemon and a dash of pepper and shake to combine. Drain the pumpkin and spread the pieces out on a baking dish to roast with a bit of olive oil, pepper and any herbs you have handy. After 10 minutes, add the hazelnuts on a separate dish. Bake for a further 10 minutes or until the hazelnuts are golden under their skins and the pumpkin is slightly crispy on the edges.
Roll the hazelnuts between your hands in paper towel to get rid of the skins. If they don’t all come off, that’s fine – just get rid of the majority of the flaky stuff.
And it’s salad assembly time! Throw those leaves in a bowl, add the pumpkin, chuck in the hazelnuts, crumble the goat’s cheese on top, drizzle your vinaigrette and serve with a few lashings of pepper, if that’s your thing.
Man, this salad was delicious. Not to mention filling! I challenge all you salad haters to give this one a try. I made double the pumpkin to make today’s salad a bit quicker, but you should roast the hazelnuts fresh each day or they’ll lose their crunch. Not a pumpkin fan? The great thing about salads is that you can throw in whatever you like (although you might want to learn from my mistake and not throw in too much). A good, simple salad will have one thing from each of these categories:
- Leaves (spinach, rocket, pre-packaged salad mix, butter lettuce)
- Veggies or fruit (pumpkin, roasted capsicum, beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber, snow peas, mushroom, pear slices)
- Cheese (goat’s cheese, blue cheese, parmesan, feta)
- Protein (hazelnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, roast chickpeas, slices of leftover roast chicken, garlic prawns, prosciutto, boiled egg)
You can also add a grain (like quinoa, rice or pasta) if you want to beef up your salad a bit. If you stick within those parameters you can come up with some pretty awesome combinations – my mum makes a salad with chicken and beetroot that not only tastes delicious but stains the chicken a bright jewel pink! I think my next salad will be a beetroot, goat’s cheese and walnut number. And by ‘next’ I mean after I have exhausted all supplies of pumpkin in my house, because damn it, this salad is rockin’.
Got a food/fitness/nutrition question? Leave it in the comments or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org! I’ll be answering all your questions in an upcoming ‘Ask Lulu’ post, so keep ’em coming!