Bon Appétit (October 2009)
Unfortunately, there were only two kinds of pumpkins left: massive orbs too heavy to carry home and daintier gourds already decorated for Halloween.
So we strode up to counter with our pumpkin, which was painted with a cute clown face and topped with a jaunty, bright red firefighter hat.
The conversation went something like this:
Checker: "Oh that's a nice pumpkin."
Us: "Thank you."
Checker: "You going to put it on your porch?"
Us: "Uh, no, actually we're going to cook it."
Checker (looking aghast): "YOU'RE GOING TO WHAT?!"
Us: "We're going to cook it for a dish that we're making."
Checker: "Why would you DO THAT?"
Us (mumbling): "For a salad we're making."
And that is what we did.
Pumpkin, lentils and goat cheese sounded, to us, like the perfect combination for an autumn salad. And with Halloween only days away, we thought that this sounded like a great way to use un-massacred pumpkins rather than throwing them away.
There are a few ingredients here making their first appearance on The Bitten Word. We have actually never cooked with pumpkin. In this recipe, the gourd is peeled, seeded, diced, tossed with spices and then roasted.
And this is also our first time cooking lentils, which we like to eat but never make. In fact, the lentils were one of the items that we really drew us to this recipe. They sounded like the perfect add-in to a cold-weather salad.
For the arugula, we actually subbed in an Asian green called yokatta na. Because, let's face it, yokatta na is tooooootally the new arugula.
Just kidding -- it's because we'd gotten a bunch of yokatta na from our CSA. It's a beautiful, leafy green with a slightly bitter taste. To counteract the slight bitterness, we added a teaspoon of sugar to the recipe's spice mixture.
So after we had roasted the pumpkin, boiled the lentils, assembled the salad and sprinkled it all with goat cheese, we grabbed our forks and took a bite.
And it was ... lacking in flavor.
The combination of these ingredients, we were sure, would make for a big, bold salad. The spiced pumpkin was essentially the exact same as our Fajita Sweet Potatoes, which we adore! And we were really hoping for the flavors of this Red Leaf Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, a hearty, delicious winter salad that we fell in love with last year.
But the pumpkin was bland. The lentils were fine. The oil and vinegar seemed to get lost.
So, we're sorry to say, this wasn't a the lust-worthy salad we were hoping for.
Maybe we should have just left our little painted firefighter pumpkin on the front porch after all...
• 3/4 cup French green lentils
• 6 cups 1-inch pieces peeled seeded sugar pumpkin or butternut squash (from about one 2-pound whole pumpkin)
• 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 4 cups baby arugula
• 1 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
• 1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
• Place lentils in small bowl. Cover with cold water and soak 10 minutes; drain.
• Cook lentils in boiling salted water until tender but firm, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils. Rinse under cold water, then drain.
• Preheat oven to 375°F. Place pumpkin in large bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons oil, cumin, paprika, and sea salt. Arrange pumpkin in single layer on baking sheet; roast 20 minutes. Turn pumpkin over. Roast until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool.
• Combine lentils, pumpkin, and oil from baking sheet with arugula, half of goat cheese, mint, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among plates; sprinkle remaining goat cheese over.