Monday, November 09, 2009

A recipe you must try and get ready for pumpkin recipes!

One of my dearest friends here from the US gave us a huge pumpkin the other day. An organic, healthy and plump gigantic pumpkin that she grows on her backyard (she has lots of space for growing stuff!). She first said it was a big guy she had on the back of her car, but I never expected it to be as huge as it really was. Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself:

The big baby sitting on my kitchen chair

Told ya! It was truly ginormous, as Matheus said when he first saw it!
Took me a while to tackle it, open and get the whole thing roasted and pureed for storage, but it was worth every second and effort spent. The pumpkin was amazingly delicious, the flesh was bright orange and sweet. Look at this beauty on the inside, is it pretty or what?

When I first brought it to the house we all got super excited not just because it was so fun to have a pumpkin that size but also because we LOVE pumpkin around here! And I mean really love it!
Ideas could not stop coming out of our mouths, pumpkin muffins was the first request, followed by pumpkin pie and for me it meant lots of my winter favorite: pumpkin soup!
From the humongous orange friend I got 10 cups of deliciousness in form of puree that I stashed right into the freezer plus about 8 more cups that I left in the fridge and started using right away.
I first made some of the frequently requested by the boys Pumpkin Muffins, next was my favorite Pumpkin Leek Soup, followed by a Savory Pumpkin Pie (which I didn't take pics but you can find the recipe in Portuguese here, and be warned, it is the best and easiest "Torta de Abobora" you will ever come across, I have made it many times here and we love it, Thanks Lica! Torta de Abobora da Eliana), and this weekend we had some of the most tasty Pumpkin Pies we ever made.
Seriously, this pumpkin is so tasty that every single item I made with it was amazing, oh and the puree warmed up with salt, pepper, and butter.... oh my, it was di-vi-ne!
But all the talk about the pumpkin brings me to the recipe I want to post today, and this truly is a "must try recipe". I saw Ina Garten make this on TV and immediately said to myself "have to try that", it looked and sounded so delicious, and how could roasted butternut squash + greens + cider vinaigrette not sound wonderfull?
The Roasted Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette is AMAZING! (pardon my shouting, but this is just too good....) It is fall on a plate, in salad form!
The best part of this? The Cider Vinaigrette. If you don't want to make everything then don't worry, but definitely try this vinaigrette at some point, it is to die for, it is the quintessential "fall-ish" vinaigrette, so delicious, and extremely flavorful.
The sweetness of the reduced apple cider is balanced beautifully by the acidity of the vinegar, the onioness of the shallots and the bite of the dijon mustard. Salt, pepper, and olive oil just round all the flavors out tying them together in one wonderful salad dressing. Believe me, you won't be sorry if you try this.
But so much for talking, let me post this recipe here so you can make it too!
Note that I made this salad multiple times already and the picture on the top of this post was actually made with roasted acorn squash, which was equally delicious as when I made with butternut or the pumpkin I got from my friend, which is the picture bellow:

This was the salad made with the bright orange pumpkin. On this one though the Parmesan was sprinkled on the spinach and it just disappeared when I drizzled the warm dressing, plus I didn't have the walnuts when I made this one.

However, if you do have walnuts at home make sure you use them, the salad was definitely tastier with those crunchy roasted walnut bits in contrast to the slightly wilted leaves, the warm dressing and the soft squash chunks... yum, just writing about it makes my mouth water!

I have been having fun at the kitchen making lots of pumpkin recipes and there are some that are just too good to be kept only for us and I must share, so be prepared for some more pumpkin goodness to show up here soon. Oh if you see a girl with a slightly orange skin walking around NC... there's a good chance it is me, I am afraid I will soon be looking like a walking carrot with the copious amount of wonderful beta-carotene I have been eating lately!

Here is my version of the salad, if you want to see the original one, click here

Roasted Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette
(adapted by an Ina Garten's recipe)

1 butternut or acorn squash, peeled and diced
Salt, pepper and olive oil to roast the squash
1/3 cup toasted walnut pieces
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (the good stuff!)
4 cups baby spinach leaves, or arugula, or a mix of the two
1 cup apple cider - or apple juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to season the dressing

Preheat your oven to 400F.
Place squash on a sheet pan lined with foil (easy clean up!), season with salt, pepper and a good dose of olive oil (it adds amazing flavor and prevent stickiness), toss all together, spread the squash cubes in one layer and roast for about 20 minutes, turning them around the 10 minutes mark to make sure they cook and brown evenly.
While the squash roast combine the apple cider, shallots, and the cider vinegar in a small pan, bring to a boil and cook until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Remove from heat and whisk in the mustard and olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste.
(My observation: after tasting refrain from eating the vinaigrette by teaspoons... it taste that good!)
Place the spinach (or arugula) in a big plate or salad bowl, add the walnuts and Parmesan, drizzle the vinaigrette over the leaves, place the roasted squash on top of everything and serve. (you can also put the squash to the bowl with everything else then add the vinaigrette and toss it all together, I like to keep the squash on top as mine were soft and delicate, an oh so good...)