Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pumpkin Salad with Avocado, Pecans, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

New Year's resolution-making already for 2015: more blogging! It's been over a month since I've posted, but since then: my job in Sydney finished, my Australian visa ran out, we've packed up and shipped all of our possessions, and I've moved back to Texas temporarily while I wait on the state department to approve the hubs to join me in the USofA. Needless to say, it's been busy.

But we're still cooking, and this is my first post from the Southern homeland I still call home. Have done a swift transfer from summer-weather salads to winter-themed dishes here in Texas, even though the weather is not quite frosty yet. The beautiful, delicious salad recipe shared below is just perfect for the holiday season, weather you're in the northern or the southern hemisphere. I made it in Sydney on Thanksgiving last month with my wonderful in-laws and will be making it again in Texas on Christmas for my family here.
This salad makes a beautiful addition to your holiday spread.
The sweet pumpkin, savory rocket (arugula) and crunchy pomegranate seeds and pecans make a mouthwatering combination, and the flavors are holiday season appropriate without adding another heavy, starchy side to your dinner table. I've used both kent pumpkin and acorn squash in this recipe with success, and butternut or any other slightly sweet squash would also work well. If you can't source avocados where you are (they're plentiful in Australia this time of year, and thankfully in Texas we have access to avos from Mexico and Cali), just leave them out-- the salad will still look and taste divine. This festive dish is also gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo-friendly. Win.
pumpkin, avocado & acorn squash over greens, topped with toasted pecans,
pomegranate arils, and pomegranate vinaigrette
Hope to be back before the month and year are over, but all best to you for December. And especially warm wishes to my family and friends back in Sydney, where the past week has been a tense and difficult one. May peace abound as we move forward into the New Year.

Pumpkin Salad with Avocado, Pecans, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Serves 6-8
Adapted from How Sweet it Is

1 acorn squash, or half of a kent pumpkin or butternut squash (no need to remove the skin!)
4-5 cups rocket (arugula; can substitute shredded romaine or another lettuce)
1 avocado, sliced into long, 1/4 inch-wide slices
1/2 of a medium sized pomegranate (for about 1/2 cup pomegranate arils)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped into large chunks

Pomegranate Vinaigrette
makes 1/2 cup

3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
pinch each of freshly ground salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 395F/ 200C. Slice the squash or pumpkin into 1/4-inch slices (if using acorn squash, cut in half from bottom to top, then slice horizontally from bottom to top so you end up with scalloped slices of squash).

Place squash slices on a lightly greased or baking paper-lined baking tray, and place into a pre-heated oven. Roast at 395F/ 200C for 20-25 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through cooking, until the slices are cooked through and beginning to brown slightly. In the last 5-6 minutes of baking, place the pecans on another baking tray and place them in the oven to toast. Remove squash and pecans from oven and set aside to cool.

While the squash is roasting, remove the arils (seeds) from your pomegranate and set a 1/2 cup aside (refrigerate the remaining arils for another use). Then make the pomegranate vinaigrette by whisking all ingredients together thoroughly.

On your serving platter or bowl, arrange the rocket leaves, and pour half of the vinaigrette evenly over the leaves. Arrange the squash slices over the rocket, then arrange the avocado slices in between the squash slices. Pour the remaining vinaigrette evenly over the salad, and sprinkle the pomegranate arils and pecans on top. Serve immediately.

Salad will keep, covered in the fridge, for 24 hours.

* Prep tip: The squash can be roasted up to a day ahead and placed in the fridge, ready to be used when you are ready to assemble the salad. The vinaigrette can be mixed up and stored in the fridge up to two days before serving.