Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Easy, Versatile Pumpkin Salad

I sometimes buy pumpkin but then end up not knowing what to do with it, so it goes bad in the bottom of the fridge while I'm still pondering. There's roast pumpkin and pumpkin soup of course, but the former is a little boring and the latter is too much effort when you want tea on the table in 20 minutes. Plus, sometimes it's either too hot for soup, or if it's winter you've already eaten soup 7 times this week and want something different. (In Australia we don't put pumpkin in everything this time of year like I might if I were in the US, and it's coming up to summer, so I'm probably limited in my pumpkin recipe repertoire!)

So here's a super easy pumpkin salad to try out. You can make it as fancy or simple as you like. At a minimum you need:

- pumpkin
- lettuce/rocket/baby spinach - any of these or some combination
- cucumber
- pine nuts/slivered almonds/chopped peanuts/chopped walnuts or pecans - any one of these works
- olive oil
- lemon juice
- salt and pepper

Extras: If you have them, you can also use
- paprika
- sweet chilli sauce and/or powdered/flaked or fresh chopped chilli if you like the heat
- balsamic vinegar
- honey
- feta
- cherry tomatoes
- pasta, if you want to make it more of a pasta salad

Note: I don't really use measurements for things, sorry! I generally just eyeball it based on how many people I want it to serve and taste it as I go.

How to make it:
1. Chop the pumpkin into bite size pieces - You want enough for about a handful of pumpkin pieces per person.
2. In a bowl coat the pumpkin in a little olive oil + salt and pepper. Also add sprinkling of paprika if you're using it, and/or a drizzle of honey or sweet chilli sauce and/or chilli powder/flakes according to taste. (If you don't want to add chilli at this stage, you can add fresh chopped chilli when you assemble the salad at the end. Or you can add chilli at both stages if you want!)
3. Spread the pumpkin on a tray and roast in the oven. About 180 degrees celsius. Only takes about 20 minutes, depending on the size of your pieces.
If you want your pumpkin still warm when you serve your salad, do the next steps now. Otherwise you can wait til the pumpkin is out of the oven and cooling to assemble the rest.
4. Chop cucumber and chop or rip your lettuce/baby spinach etc. into chunky bite size pieces. Put in a salad bowl. (You want a reasonable amount of these fresh salad ingredients - the pumpkin can get too much if you don't have the freshness to cut through it.)
5. Sprinkle over your choice of nuts. You can toast these first if you like, by frying for a couple of minutes in a frypan sprayed with oil. Pine nuts or almonds are especially good toasted.
6. Chop and add a bit of feta and or cherry tomatoes if you're using them. If you're adding fresh chilli you can add it now too.
7. Once the pumpkin is out of the oven and cooled slightly (or completely if you want it cold), add to the salad.
8. Just before serving (so it doesn't go soggy), toss the salad together with a drizzle of olive oil, and a splash of lemon juice. Add a little balsamic vinegar if you're using it, too. (Go easy on all these dressing ingredients - add a little at a time. You can always add more but you can't take it out again.)

Season with salt and pepper and serve.

(If you want to make it a pasta salad, cook your pasta and add it either cold or warm at the end just before serving. You might want to reduce the amount of lettuce/spinach you add.)

If you make this or have your own variation, I'd love to hear how yours turns out and what you put in!

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