Something wild and crazy is happening in Edmonton, we’re enjoying a true fall. Typically in this fine city we go from summer straight to winter; no joke, the weather will go from 19oC to -5oC in a matter of days. This year things are different. Cozy sweaters worn on brisk walks have been steadily enjoyed around these parts, as I intend to soak in this elusive season.
For a great many of us, Pumpkin and other types of squash are quintessentially fall and Winter; with pumpkin spice lattes and the like dominating my Instagram feed. As a chef, I, of course, love summer produce but I also really enjoy what winter has to offer. Fall and winter cooking proves to be a challenge for most, but please don’t let it get your down. Where summer is tailor made for light meals, fall and winter make way for comforting dishes that stick to our ribs.
Now, when people think of pumpkin squash, thoughts of Thanksgiving and Halloween come to mind and not necessarily roasted pumpkin squash salad; however, this supreme and often overlooked vegetable is exceedingly low in calories, while still packing a potassium and vitamin A punch- not to mention the beta-carotene that is typically found in all orange foods. For a measly 49 calories per cup of mashed pumpkin, there is a whopping 564 mg of potassium; which is about 33% more than a medium banana. The reason potassium is important to our health is because of the balance between potassium and sodium. These two vital nutrients work together to maintain water balance in the body. And in North America where our sodium intake is, on average, three times higher than our potassium intake, I’d say pumpkin is a fall vegetable we should all enjoy with wild abandon!
For those of us who consider ourselves athletic, or work out at least three days per week, take note; our bodies need more potassium to replace that which has been lost from muscle and in our sweat during exercise. Low potassium can cause muscle cramping and cardiovascular irregularities, which is why this deliciously restorative roasted pumpkin squash salad should be a part of your winter recipe repertoire.
This roasted pumpkin squash salad is the kind of recipe that sneaks up on you. Yes, all the ingredients are delicious on their own, but when combined, next level deliciousness is achieved. When the pumpkin and onions are roasted, their inherent sweetness is magnified; and by using toasted sunflower seeds in the dressing, a deep richness produced. This salad would also be deliciously complimented with quinoa, bulgur, amaranth and the like; but because the pumpkin and onion yield immediately to the tooth, I wanted the grain to provide a robust texture, which is why I chose wild rice- that choice, however, is up to you!
Step aside bananas, there’s a new potassium kid in town!
Roasted Pumpkin Squash Salad
3 cups pumpkin squash, peeled and cubes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
4 medium onions, peeled and quartered
2 cups cooked wild rice
For the dressing
1/3 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ tbsp honey
¾ tsp ground cumin
½ cup chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 375OF.
Toss the pumpkin with 1 tbsp olive oil with the ½ tbsp salt; and turn onto a baking sheet. Toss the onions with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining salt; toss and turn onto a separate baking sheet. Roast both for about 45 minutes, or until both are deeply colored and the onions are soft (you may need to toss them half way through cooking).
To make the dressing, in a food processor combine the sunflower seed, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, honey, cilantro and cumin; blend while slowly adding the water, until it’s creamy (about ½ to 1 tbsp of water is needed). Taste and adjust seasonings if need be.
To serve, toss the rice with a large dollop of dressing; add onions and toss once or twice. Place in a bowl and top with roasted pumpkin squash.