One of the few food blogs I read regularly is 101 cookbooks. I often see recipes that I’d like to try, but rarely get around to making any of them. Finally, the planets aligned, and I actually made one of Heidi’s featured recipes: roasted pumpkin salad. I had bought two small squashes at the farmer’s market, but hadn’t gotten a chance to cook them before leaving for Italy. I’m not positive, but I think they were sweet dumpling squashes: small, yellow with green striations, and shaped kind of like acorn squash, but less pointy. I had planned on just roasting the squash halves, but then this squash salad recipe turned up in my inbox and I decided to repurpose the squashes.
I didn’t bother to peel my squash, since the skin looked quite thin. It was a good decision, as the skin was soft and delicate once cooked. Just one of my squashes made over 3 cups of diced squash, so I halved the other squash and roasted it on the same tray as the diced one. I didn’t feel like getting another sheet dirty so I roasted my red onions on the same sheet as well. The vegetables didn’t seem crowded at all, so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem. The vegetables roasted quite well, becoming sweet and carmelized, thanks to the generous glug of olive oil I spread over them.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find wild rice in the grocery store, so instead we bought a mix of basmati and a few grains of wild rice.
The dressing didn’t come out as creamy and white as the one in the photo. Perhaps I should have used a blender instead of my mini processor. Mine was a little gritty and greasy, and tasted primarily of lemon juice. It had a certain resemblance to a tahini dressing. I drizzled a little dressing on the salad, but I couldn’t taste it much after tossing all the ingredients together, so I kept adding more dressing, and ended up adding probably half the dressing to the rice. I think perhaps if I hadn’t mixed it in but just drizzled it on top it would have had a stronger flavor. As it was all that dressing made the salad quite rich and tasty, but still I couldn’t taste the dressing specifically. Derek added even more dressing to his portion, and we ended up using up all the dressing by the time the salad was finished. I can’t tell from Heidi’s instructions what fraction of the dressing she had intended for us to use, but it certainly ended up being quite a rich dish.
The dish was mildly flavored. I had subbed in thyme for the cilantro, and I quite liked the thyme flavor with the roasted squash. The pumpkin and thyme together oozed autumn, and the roasted onions added sweetness and a great deep purple color to the dish. I was worried the dish would be a bit too bland for Derek, but after adding salt and more dressing he really liked it. He only rated it a B, because he thought the dish wasn’t quite right, but that it has potential.
We ate the salad with black bean tortillas for dinner, and then had the leftovers for lunch the next day. I ended up adding the extra rice and the second squash as well, and it made quite a large lunch. However, we were hungry again a few hours later. I suppose that white rice and olive oil don’t make the most long-lasting meal.
I will try to make this recipe again, cutting back a little on the olive oil in the dressing, drizzling the dressing on top rather than mixing it in to the salad, and subbing a more hearty grain for the white rice. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get my hands on some wild rice.
Other recipes from 101 cookbooks that I’ve tried include the skinny omelet, the pan-roasted brussels sprouts, and the Big Sur power bars. Recipes still on my list to try include the five minute tomato sauce, Heidi’s frozen yogurt, the salsa of the year, and the harissa spaghetti, as well as another one of her many grain salads.
Update October 28, 2008:
I made this recipe again, but I couldn’t find small red onions so I subbed in small yellow onions. Perhaps I didn’t roast them long enough, but they were way too bland tasting, and not sweet and delicious like the red onions last time. The squash (the same kind) was still really tasty, and I used the same rice, but this time I was able to get cilantro for the dressing. I misread the directions and pureed the cilantro into the dressing, which resulted in a very thick, bright green paste. I thinned it a bit with water, but it tasted… weird. It wasn’t bad tasting, but neither Derek nor I would make it again, and most of it ended up getting thrown out. I know it would have tasted different if I had stirred in the cilantro rather than blending it, but I think I just don’t like that sunflower seed dressing. Next time I’m going to just make a vinaigrette I think, with thyme or rosemary.