It's 6 am as I write this. Thanksgiving morning. It will be the first time my husband and I are hosting. My mother and I have done more cooking over the past few days than I ever thought possible, and we've honestly enjoyed every minute of it. We shopped for special ingredients, laughed at a few cooking mishaps, and could barely contain our excitement following this creation. I wish I could tell you I took photographs of all the dishes we'll be including on our menu, but it down poured all day yesterday, and the truth is, I'm just not that savvy. I am however, including this picture of my table all set, just as dawn starts to break. I'm sitting here with my cup of tea, writing in this quiet moment, proudly admiring the hard work I've put in. I have a huge pot of butternut squash soup resting in my crock-pot. My fancy stemware that never sees the light of day is sitting on the dining room table, and I've somehow managed to fill two refrigerators full of food. Our entire menu is organic, a feat that makes me almost as proud as my contribution to this. Many of the vegetables I'll be serving, including turnips and parsnips, are from local farms in Massachusetts. What could be better than sharing good food with the people you love? And for all of you, I'm sharing a recipe today I've aptly named 'harvest salad.'
It's become a favorite of mine. I took a chance at combining some odd pairings from what I had in my fridge and pantry one afternoon last week. As it turned out, my kitchen was bursting with some pretty interesting fall flavors: leftover butternut squash, kale, dried cranberries, pistachios, feta, and diced red onions. This salad is a beauty to take in and tastes as appealing as it looks. Part of its charm, aside from its vibrant color palette, is the sweet and salty duo; sweet butternut squash and cranberries contrast beautifully with salty bites of feta and pistachios. When I create salad recipes, I always think about color appeal and variety of textures. This harvest salad meets both criteria. The base of it is a grain mix I recently came across that included a combination of red and gold quinoa, wild and brown rice, and amaranth. I would imagine you could use any grain you like, although I seem to be partial to quinoa these days. It comes together with a simple olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing.
I should warn you, this salad takes a little of love. And by a little of love, I mean a little time. Mostly I mean a few pans. Maybe after all the dishes Thanksgiving will entail, it will seem like a breeze. You could always cook your grain ahead of time to save yourself an extra step. I've even made it with leftover brown rice from the night before. This is the type of thing I like to make on a Sunday and eat for lunch all week long. Because this salad is served cold, it packs and transports well. Its very satisfying. Show yourself a little love and make it sometime after you've recovered from the holiday. Or, make it to help fuel your Black Friday shopping. I'll be in the former category. I still haven't gotten over the year my brother dragged me out of bed at 3 am. We arrived in our pajamas to buy a TV that was already gone before we stepped in the store. Happy Thanksgiving my dear readers.
~Harvest Salad Recipe~
3 cups cooked harvest grain blend, quinoa, or grain of choice
2 cups roasted butternut squash
5-6 large kale stalks, stems removed, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup roasted pistachios
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable stock
2 tbsp finely diced red onion
3 tsp extra virgin olive oil (for roasting)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
sea salt and pepper to taste
After cooking grains, place in a large bowl to cool. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut butternut squash into 3/4"-1" cubes, yielding 2 cups. Drizzle with a tsp of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast for about 30 minutes. Remove pistachios from shells. Drizzle with a tsp of olive oil and roast at the same temperature for about 8 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, give them a good chop. In a large saute pan, add the final tsp of olive oil and garlic over medium heat. Cook for about a minute or two, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add your chopped kale and let it wilt down for a few seconds. Pour the vegetable stock into the pan, and let the kale continue to cook until all the liquid is absorbed. Set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing: olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper. Once everything has cooled, you can move forward. To the large bowl of the grains, add kale, pistachios, dried cranberries, and feta cheese. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Add in the butternut squash last, carefully folding. Alternatively, you can place the butternut squash on top of the salad. It's a safer bet. Serve at room temperature or cold. Serves 4-6.