Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Recipe of the month: Roasted Butternut Squash and Farro Salad


Yes!!!

Finally the time has come for another salad on the blog (bringing my grand total to three 😂). I had started feeling guilty for promising to post more salad recipes and not staying true to my word. But better late than never right?


I showcase a lot of the salads that I make for myself and the husband on a weekly basis on Instagram (if you are not following me yet....what are you waiting for dude?). But like I've said somewhere before, preparing a salad for a blog post is a challenge for me because it requires me to do it over the weekend and the thought of eating salads over the weekend never crosses our mind! Not that we are casting any aspersions on their potential to serve as a good appetizer or even as a main meal, but we have so many other classic dishes, comfort foods and indulgent meals that we would much rather make on the weekend owing to the luxury of time and energy.

But I do get a ton of requests to post more salad recipes on the blog so I decided to break my weekend rule for a change. It turned out to be a good thing too because on that particular day, after a hearty brunch of homemade mushroom-ricotta ravioli in a luxurious tomato-cream sauce, we felt like having a light dinner and this salad worked perfectly! 


So, this is how a little backstory of how this salad came together,
When it comes to salad grains, my numero uno is farro....by a MILE. Farro gets an A-plus nutritional rating. It is nearly fat-free and completely cholesterol-free, making it a heart-healthy choice and perfect for vegetarians and vegans. Farro is a great source of iron and is extremely high in fiber. However note that while farro is a whole grain, it is not gluten-free. I love how nutty and chewy this ancient grain is and how it beautifully blends into any salad. Quick cook farro is so much more convenient since the cooking time is drastically reduced but I don't always get my hands on it so I make do with the regular kind (in Singapore I usually buy from Cold Storage or Redmart). I have a tendency to favour farro, pearl barley and pearl couscous in the salads I make probably because of their texture. On the other hand, I am not picky when it comes to salad leaves. I like 'em all! I tend to use baby spinach a lot more because of its nutritional value, easy availability and the fact that I enjoy it. In my household, we love butternut squash and pumpkin. My most preferred way of cooking the squash family is roasting in the oven because it just turns so tender and sweet. The other components of this salad were fairly easy choices - feta cheese (gotta have it every time!), pistachios (by far, my most favourite nut) and dried cranberries (I am obsessed with them!). I like the bite raw onions give to salads so I generally add them but if that isn't something you would like, you can either skip them or consider roasting the onions in the oven along with the squash.

For the dressing, I rustled up my favourite apple cider vinegar - Dijon mustard vinaigrette. You could use whatever salad dressing you like but I suggest you try this one (if you haven't yet). I usually don't use store-bought salad dressings except for one roasted garlic balsamic vinaigrette that I love. I just want to avoid any nasties store-bought salad dressings may contain so I am more comfortable preparing my own. It hardly takes 5 minutes anyway.


I hope you try this salad. Go through the notes section for loads of suggestions on substitutions and variations.

Happy eating! 

Roasted Butternut Squash and Farro Salad

Prep time: 15 min
Baking time: 20 min
Cooking time: ~ 30 min
Total time: ~ 45 min
Servings: 4-6
Recipe category: Salad/Western
Recipe level: Easy
Recipe source: Adapted from here

Ingredients:

For the salad:

1 cup farro (dried)
1 cup stock of your choice
2 cups water
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
300 gm (about 2 heaped cups) butternut squash, peeled and cut into uniform chunks
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
125 gm (about 4 cups) baby spinach, washed and spun dry
1/4 cup feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Salt and black pepper to taste

For the dressing:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup or honey
1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/8 tsp dried Italian herbs
1 big garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 tsp salt

Method:

1. Rinse and drain the farro. Soak in ample water for at least 1 hour (overnight would be ideal). If you are using quick cooking farro, there is no need to soak. Just cook according to package directions and set aside to cool.


2. Preheat oven to 200 deg C (400 deg F).

3. Add 1 cup of stock + 2 cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the farro and reduce heat to a simmer.

  • If you have soaked the farro overnight, test the farro for doneness after about 15 min. It should be al dente. Drain the cooking water if required. 
  • If you have soaked it for a shorter time, the farro will take at least 25 - 30 mins to cook. 
  • Fluff the farro and set it aside to cool.


4. While farro is cooking, you can either dry roast the pistachios on a low flame on the stove-top until fragrant or else toast the pistachios at 180 deg C (350 deg F) for about 6-8 minutes in an oven. Take care not to burn them! Once toasted, transfer to a plate and allow pistachios to cool.


5. Toss the butternut squash in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange squash on a baking sheet. Roast in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until squash is tender. Turn the squash around during the half mark interval. Set aside.



6. Add all the ingredients for the dressing in a mason jar and give it a good shake until emulsified.


7. On your serving dish, you can either mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl and then transfer to the serving dish or else layer the salad in this order: baby spinach, cooked farro, butternut squash, onion, feta, pistachios, and cranberries.



8. Drizzle with the prepared dressing. Give a gentle mix and serve immediately!


Notes:
  • Make sure the salad leaves are fresh and you dry them thoroughly after washing
  • I don't own a salad spinner so after thoroughly washing the salad leaves under running water, I collect them in the center of a clean towel, enclose them from all ends, grasp it tightly and then circle the towel clockwise or anti-clockwise vigorously a few times until the water leaves the salad leaves. If you decide to follow this method, you will need to stand near a sink or an open space to prevent raining on anyone or anything! It is a primitive method but it works great, trust me!
  • Instead of farro, you can use quinoa, couscous, Bulgar wheat or pearl barley. Just cook accordingly to package instructions, cool and use in recipe as instructed
  • Instead of butternut squash, you can use pumpkin
  • If you don't like raw onions, you can consider roasting them in the oven
  • Instead of baby spinach, you can use kale, arugula or mesclun 
  • Instead of feta cheese, you can use goat's cheese or shaved Parmesan
  • Instead of cranberries, you can use raisins or dried figs
  • Instead of pistachios, you can use almond slivers, crushed walnuts or toasted pine nuts
  • For the dressing, if you don't have apple cider vinegar, you can substitute with white wine or red wine vinegar instead
  • Dress the salad only just before serving so the salad stays crisp and fresh


Cheers,
Megha


2 comments:

  1. I couldn?t resist commenting. Well written!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This design is spectacular! You most certainly know how to keep a reader entertained.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost
    moved to start my own blog (well, almost...HaHa!) Excellent job.
    I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.

    Too cool!

    ReplyDelete

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