This is my go to Fall Salad! It's an all around winner, the perfect combination of flavors, textures and ingredients. If you don't like salads or struggle to eat them, you need to try this recipe. I have been eating it at least a few times a week for the past few weeks and it's safe to say I am addicted, sometimes having a variation for both lunch and dinner. Even though theres some chopping and roasting involved, the whole thing comes together pretty simply and I love that I can prep most of the ingredients ahead of time. I usually eat it as full-on-entree not a side but this would be great to bring to a party or other dinner gathering as it makes a gorgeous presentation.
My favorite thing about this salad is it's nutritional density and flavor combinations - a complete and healthy meal for sure! Dark leafy greens, filling carbs from the kabocha squash, a boost of protein from the chic peas and healthy fats from the creamy tahini mustard dressing. The addition of tart, dried cherries and pumkin seeds only adds to the healthy benefits (pumpkin seeds are antimicrobial and tart cherries are known to be a natural pain killer)
If you haven't tried kabocha squash you are seriously missing out for a few reasons. One, the texture is my absolute favorite in the squash kingdom - once cooked its soft, creamy and almost custard like. Two, the flavor is sweet but not over powering and three, you don't have to peel it - yes, you can 100% eat the skin - lazy people rejoice! I've always had luck finding kabocha in my local markets but I didn't always know of it's existence - if you're looking it's dark green with lighter vertical stripes, a round flat shape and a thick stem - it sort of looks like an acorn squash on steroids. I eat this type of squash regularly (in curries, over rice or plain as a snack), I've tried to prepare them many ways but the bake-steam method I detail below is my all-time favorite - especially when seasoned with fall spices. Yum!
Most salads I make are drizzled with some version of the dressing recipe in this post - it's just the perfect creamy style dressing that taste good on pretty much anything. Make sure you use a high quality, authentic Israeli or Middle Eastern brand of tahini because some of the conventional brands are too thick and taste a bit bitter. You will love it drizzled atop any fresh veg (I particularly love it on tomatoes) and when you take a bite that includes all of the goodies in this salad, you will know why I haven't been able to eat much else for the past few weeks.
The thing about salads is this - you can totally make swaps for all of these ingredients - can't find kabocha, use butternut squash. Don't like tomatoes? Use another veggie instead. Out of pumpkin seeds? Use sunflower seeds or walnuts! Want more? Bulk it up with quinoa, rice or another grain. I often hesitate when writing a recipe for a salad because it can be so straightforward and intuitive but this one is totally worth it!
Serves: 1 large salad, 2 side salads • Prep Time: 30-40 minutes
Sweet roasted Kabocha Squash
- 1/2 small kabocha squash, cleaned, de-seeded and cut into 1" cubes
- 1 tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 tbsp. pumpkin spice
- 1/2 tsp salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup water
1. Preheat your oven to 425*F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil. Clean, de-seed and dice the kabocha squash (remember you can eat the skin of this particular squash) and transfer the squash to your sheet pan.
2. Sprinkle on salt, spices and maple syrup - toss to combine and spread the squash out in an even layer on the pan. Place the pan in the oven and carefully pour 1/4 cup water over the top - this will help the squash cook without oil, leaving the pieces tender and slightly crisp on the outside.
3. Roast the squash for 20-25 minutes until desired done-ness is reached.
4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool fully before serving on the salad
Roasted Spiced Chic peas
- Can of chic peas, drained and rinsed
- 1 tsp. garam masala spice blend
- 1/2 tsp. pumpkin spice
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
1. Preheat your oven to 425*F (I recommend doing it at the same time as the squash since they cook at the same temperature) and line and baking sheet with parchment paper
2. Drain and rinse a can of chic peas (I always go for the low-sodium variety) and use a paper towel or tea towel to lightly press some of the dampness off the beans
3. Transfer to the sheet pan and sprinkle with spices and salt - toss to combine
4. Add the chic peas to the oven and roast for apx. 10-15 minutes. The end result with be crisp on the outside and still soft inside - I love this texture but you could roast them longer to get them fully crunchy-crisp - just watch them carefully so they don't burn.
Creamy Mustard Tahini Dressing
- 1/4 cup good quality tahini
- 2 tbsp. grainy mustard
- 1-2 tbsp. maple syrup, to taste
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (you can also try using balsamic, just add a bit more to get the right acid balance)
- 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (try fresh orange juice if you like a sweeter dressing)
- 2 - 4 tbsp. water
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, salt
1. In a mason jar or bowl add all ingredients (except water) and whisk together till well combined.
2. Slowly add water 1 tbsp. at a time till a rich-creamy-drizzel-able consistency is reached. You can store this in your fridge for up to two weeks, and it is good on everything so I reccomend making a double batch!
NOTE: If you have ever made tahini dressing before you will know that it thickens up FAST! I can make a batch with perfect consistency one minute and the next it is wayyyy to thick so you may have to whisk in a bit more water right before pouring it over the salad. If you are making it in advance, always know that you'll have to thin it out when taking it out of the fridge. This is a total win-win thought because this stuff can really stretch!
The Salad Components
- A healthy few handfuls of any greens you like - I especially love asian mix, baby kale or arugula
- A generous sprinkle of pumpkin seeds
- A few Roma tomatoes, cut into half moon slices
- Cucumber, cut into half moon slices
- 1/4 cup dried cherries
1. To assemble the salad place a bed of lettuce in a large shallow bowl and toss with a squeeze of lemon juice
2. Chop your fresh veggies and lay them on top, then place some of your cooled squash and chic peas over the salad (you will have left overs which is great).
3. Next, sprinkle on the dried cherries and pumpkin seeds.
4. Finally, drizzle the dressing across the top (you will have a bit extra left over, which I use for dipping).