I’m a big fan of getting to know a culture through its food, but more than that, I love getting acquainted with the land by tasting its produce, fresh and unadulterated, the way nature meant for us to eat the fruit of its land.
Most of the time, when possible, I try to bring on a fun, unique and healthy twist to a recipe that celebrates the tastes and flavors used, and that makes a meal something that’s far greater than just the sum of its parts.
I believe strongly that food should be savored and enjoyed, not in haste nor in a state of worry. Food, in my humble opinion, has the ability to bring us a huge amount of comfort; take us on a stroll along memory lane; or simply make you marvel at the wonder of life and nature.
My evolution as a food blogger has also taught me that when you respect your food, and treat each ingredient with the attention and care that it deserves, the outcome can only be something very good. And therefore, it naturally goes to say that the less processed the ingredients we eat, the better; and the closer our food remains to the state that they originally came in, the better.
Maybe it’s because of this view that I feel like a little girl in a candy store whenever I walk into the market – whether it’s the farmer’s market, the Trader Joe’s just a block away from our apartment, or the Whole Foods at Foggy Bottom.
Where the market is really isn’t quite as important as the variety of fresh produce available; and because I am a highly visual person by nature, the more colorful and varied the fruits and vegetables, the happier and more excited I get.
After moving to DC, I realized that the supermarkets in Argentina have extremely limited produce, and going grocery-shopping here in the US is a whole different ball game. It also makes me want to buy so much more, which sometimes is a bank-breaking experience – I’d gladly pay a dollar more for fresh cranberries so I can make my own cranberry sauce, for example; or buy a vegetable simply because it is beautiful.
As I told you, grocery shopping is my weakness, and I prefer spending money on good food at the supermarket than clothes or shoes at a shopping mall. In short, I adore fresh, seasonal produce like most other girls adore Chanel bags and Jimmy Choo heels.
I’d seen Ashley’s recipe for delicata squash with brown butter and cocoa nibs last week, and found that I simply couldn’t keep the picture of the beautiful squash – roasted and fresh from the oven – out of my head. So when I saw the basket of delicata squash at the entrance of my local Trader Joe’s the other day, I couldn’t resist grabbing a few. While we were paying for the groceries at the counter, Juan asked me what I was going to do with the delicata squash. I shrugged my shoulders at him and grinned, “Don’t know, but I’ll figure that out”.
I guess you’re getting a better understanding of how I buy my groceries by now – if the produce is beautiful and invokes something in me, I buy it. I know a recipe will start brewing and eventually manifest. It just takes a few days of the produce sitting on my countertop for me to get inspired. So I let the delicata squash sit on my kitchen counter, right next to the tray which is home to the jars of rice, sauces and salt.
Yesterday, inspiration finally struck. After days of eating heavier dishes, my body was craving a lighter, more vibrant meal – and when I saw the large bag of salad greens in my fridge, I knew immediately that I’d make a fall-inspired salad that was both refreshing, filling and also flavorful.
I’m a girl who loves my spices and some heat in my food, so I sprinkled some ground paprika on the squash slices just before roasting them. Ashley’s recipe was sweeter in tastes, but I wanted to balance the delicata squash’s natural sweetness with some kick. When the roasting was done, it took less than a minutes for me to mix salad greens, dried cranberries, gouda cheese and the roasted delicata squash together, sprinkle them with red chili pepper flakes and a bit of salt and olive oil.
I love that it was such an easy and hands off meal, with the toughest part being to cut the delicata squash open (make sure you use a sharp knife as the uncooked skin may be a little tough).
So there you have it – a salad that’s all-rounded and delights your tastebuds in every single way: the sweetness of dried cranberries and roasted squash, the spicy kick of paprika and red chili pepper flakes, the saltiness of creamy gouda cheese and fresh, crunchy greens, all bound together with extra virgin olive oil.
A salad that sounds and looks this good doesn’t need much convincing, but I’ll tell you anyway – make it today because you won’t regret any minute of it!
- 2 delicata squash, seeds removed, and cut into 1-inch half-circle slices
- 1 teaspoon of ground paprika
- 4 cups of fresh salad greens
- ½ cup of sliced gouda cheese
- ½ cup of dried cranberries
- 1 teaspoon of dried red chili pepper flakes
- Salt and olive oil to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 400 deg. Fahrenheit (200 deg. Celsius)
- Cut delicata squash into half lengthwise, and remove the seeds before cutting each half into 1-inch half-circle slices
- Pour 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil onto a large baking tray and make sure the entire surface is coated
- Place delicata squash slices on the prepared baking tray, drizzle another 1 tablespoon of oil over the squash slices and then sprinkle with ground paprika (generously if you like more heat, cautiously if you just want a bit of heat)
- Roast delicata squash slices in pre-heated oven for 40 minutes, turning over once after the first 30 minutes
- Divide salad greens, cranberries, gouda cheese and roasted delicata squash evenly between two plates, garnish with red chili pepper flakes, and add salt and olive oil to taste