Monday, November 25, 2013

spiced butternut squash and lentil salad.

Come November, this is my default work lunch.  It doesn't look particularly exciting or revolutionary.  It isn't the kind of things that will illicit oohs and ahhs from people as they walk by your desk.  Even the name sounds rather bland and conjures thoughts of healthy hippie food (poor lentils).  

But people, don't fall into the trap of thinking those horribly negative things.  Those thoughts are oh so wrong. This is the kind of salad that I can't get enough of.  A collection of simple ingredients that comes together to produce a complex and flavorful dish. (One that would be pretty perfect on a Thanksgiving buffet.)   

The secret is the smoked Spanish paprika.  Smoked Spanish paprika is my single favorite ingredient.  It transforms everything and I mean everything you put it on.  I love it on scrambled eggs with goat cheese.  I adore it in mashed potatoes or sprinkled on avocado toast.  Here it adds an extra element to the squash.  The intermingling of heat and smoky spice with sweet and tender squash is what makes this dish so special.  It elevates and provides an extra level of dimension especially when paired with crunchy pepitas, tender lentils, and creamy goat cheese.  This is the kind of salad you'll be wanting seconds of.  

Spiced Butternut Squash and Lentil Salad
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

The arugula is optional.  Sometimes I add it, sometimes I don't.  Either way, its perfect.  

Serves 4 as a side, 3 as a main 

1 large butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup French green lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika plus additional for sprinkling 
1/2 teaspoon salt plus additional to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper plus additional to taste
1 cup goat cheese crumbled
1 - 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup toasted pepitas
4 cups baby arugula (optional) 

Place lentils in small bowl. Cover with cold water and soak 10 minutes; drain.

Cook lentils in boiling salted water until tender but firm, about 20 - 25 minutes. Drain lentils. Rinse under cold water, then drain.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place squash in large bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons oil, cumin, paprika, and sea salt. Arrange squash in single layer on baking sheet; roast 20 minutes. Turn squash over. Roast until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool.

Combine lentils, squash, pepitas, and oil from baking sheet with arugula (if using), goat cheese, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.  Taste and sprinkle on more smoked paprika if desired. Divide among plates.

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