Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Wheatberry Salad with Roasted Squash, Raddichio and Walnuts

Wintertime salads can take a little creativity. Especially when you're committed to coming up with a recipe without leaving the house.

A few days back a friend invited us to a lovely midweek dinner party, and oh-so-subtly mentioned that contributions of salad would be appreciated. I was caught between work and work-related errands, with barely enough time to cook, and definitely no time to shop. Iron Pantry Chef challenge accepted! And the results were wonderful.

To be fair, I must give due props to the amazing Casa Moro cookbook, which features a lovely warm butternut squash and chickpea salad, which is something of a spiritual godfather of this recipe. But I didn't have chickpeas, or the cilantro and red onion which perk up that version. Instead, I dug deeper into the winter larder. I came up with an acorn squash, likely leftover from Thanksgiving, and a jar of wheatberries (or perhaps the were speltberries?) I inherited when a friend went gluten-free. The refrigerator yielded the remains of some colorful radicchio (it is truly shocking how long that stuff keeps), and I grabbed a handful of walnuts to add a nutty depth and tie it all together. I dressed everything with lashings of tahini sauce, although you could easily go the green-salad route and pair it with a nutty vinaigrette and a few crumbles of goat cheese. The composed result is much more beautiful than a mid-winter pantry meal has any right to be, and manages to be both toothsome and light at the same time. It's a welcome potluck contribution, and also makes a fine meal on its own, with perhaps just some crusty bread to accompany.

And, for those who do get out of the house (for grocery shopping and other less wholesome pursuits), here's a recent article I wrote about global hangover recipes. An eagle-eyed editor sadly removed the part where I described it as a "culinary walk of shame" (I can't imagine why, right?), but left intact recipes for soothing congee, sloppy shakshouka, bracing green smoothies, and rich pasta carbonara and French onion soup. Any one of them makes for a great start to your day (whether or not you're hung over).

Wheatberry Salad with Roasted Squash, Raddichio and Walnuts

1 smallish winter squash, peeled and cubed
olive oil and salt as needed
1 cup wheatberries (or spelt berries)1/4 cup walnuts, toasted (if they're not toasted, you can toss them in the oven along with the squash, if you watch them carefully)
1 small head radicchio, thinly sliced
1/4 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, pressed
juice of 1 small lemon
pinch each salt and sugar
water as needed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the squash, and cut into 1" cubes. Toss with a bit of olive oil and salt, and set in the oven to roast, turning occasionally, until they are soft (and just beginning to caramelize around the edges, if you like), ~30+ minutes. Remove, and let cool slightly.

While the squash is roasting, cook the wheatberries. Place in a pot with a few inches of water to cover, add a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat until it's just high enough to maintain a simmer, and cook until the berries are soft, ~45+ minutes. They won't be totally soft, but should clearly be fully hydrated, with no chalky white parts inside. Drain, and allow to cool slightly.

To make the dressing, mix together the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and salt and sugar. Add water as needed to thin to a nice pourable consistency (add it gradually, as I can tell you it's easy to accidentally overdo it).

To assemble the salad, layer the wheatberries on the bottom of a serving platter (or, if you're taking it to a potluck, a container with a lid). Layer the squash on next, then top with the walnuts and radicchio. Serve warm, with lots of tahini dressing.


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