It’s technique time again! If you’ve scanned my recipes, you’ll notice that I like to give suggestions and techniques in addition to regular recipes. This salad fits into the “technique” category.
I wanted to make a salad using only what I already had on hand and this is what appeared. I used kabocha squash, mixed greens, pumpkin seeds, and quinoa, and blended dried chilies, cashews, and lime for a tangy, creamy dressing. I urge you to go ahead and make this your own. Roast whatever squash you like, cook up some grains that have been hiding in the back of your pantry, and toss in any other seeds or nuts you may have.
A note on cutting hard squash: with this recipe, you can use whatever hard squash you want or have on hand. Cutting round squash can be a bit tricky and I like to approach it as if I were carving a pumpkin for Halloween, where I would remove the top and scoop out the seeds. Take a paring knife and cut around the hard stem, then pop it out. Now that you have a hole at the top, it’s easier to get a big knife in there and cut from end to end, resulting in half-moon shapes (see photo below). Scoop out the seeds from each slice but don’t peel the skin. It will soften upon cooking and is completely edible.
1 small kabocha squash (or hard squash of your choice)
1 /4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup quinoa
1 35g pack of New Mexico Chilies (about 5 whole chilies)
½ cup raw cashews
juice of 2 limes
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the dressing:
Remove the stems and seeds from the chilies. Rip them up a bit and soak them in warm water along with the cashews for about 15 minutes.
Strain the chilies and cashews, rinse them, then add to a blender with the lime juice, water, and salt. Blend until creamy, adding more salt if necessary.
For the salad:
Preheat your oven to 425º. Cut the squash into 1 inch-thick half moons. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 30-40 minutes or until soft and the edges are starting to brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Meanwhile, make your quinoa. Rinse it in a sieve, then put it in a medium pot with enough water to cover by one inch. Place over medium heat and when it comes to a boil turn it down to a low simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes uncovered, or until the water is mostly evaporated. At this point, turn off the heat and cover the pan to let the remaining grains steam, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
Toast your pumpkin seeds by placing a frying pan over medium heat (no oil needed). Add the seeds in a thin layer, do not overcrowd your pan. When the seeds start to pop and brown, shake the pan and give them a good stir so they toast evenly. When they start to turn golden brown and smell nutty, pour them into a bowl to cool.
Assemble your salad layering the greens, quinoa, squash, and seeds, and drizzle with the dressing.