I've introduced my family to the wonders of a simple, French-style Dijon vinaigrette drizzled over fall pears and arugula, and to panko-crusted fried goat cheese. It's a dish that takes spices - ginger, turmeric, coriander seed and other South Asian flavors - and combines them with ingredients such as quinoa and baked kale and miso, the trendy stuff my family goes wild for.
Executive chef Jesse Miller from the Washington, D.C.'s Bar Pilar provided the recipe for the dish, served in his restaurant. Then I tweaked it so it wasn't so complicated that it turned a festive occasion into something that necessitated a Xanax.
No problems here, it turns out. Kabocha squash is what Miller prefers, but acorn squash was easy to find at a grocery store and did just as well: Its firm texture held up to baking. It can be peeled, for those who don't like the fibrous bite of the dark-green coating, or left skin-on.
Other ingredients are what really put this salad over the top. The baked kale adds crunch. The miso-mascarpone was mildly sweet, thanks to the farmers cheese, but also salty enough that you don't need much salt otherwise. I added only a little to the cooking water for the quinoa, and to the nuts.
About those: The pecans, so fragrant with brown butter and rosemary, are worth the trouble. (Note to self: Make extra! Put them on everything!)
I'm already plotting new ways to adapt the recipe for the future: Roasted butternut squash, which I also tested, provided a slightly sweeter note for this salad; it seemed to carry the acid of the vinegar in a more pronounced way, too. Red quinoa is ideal for the health nuts in my family, who, given that we don't eat meat, will appreciate its hearty chewiness. But white quinoa, which is easier to find and lighter in texture, transforms the dish. And in playing around with my dressing, I found I liked adding a little garlic powder to the miso-marscapone, giving it even more of an umami pop that I know will have everybody asking, "What is that I'm tasting?"
CURRIED SQUASH SALAD WITH QUINOA AND CRISPY KALE
8 to 10 Servings
Squash and crunchy kale channel the season in this Indian-influenced salad. Red quinoa gives this salad a hearty chew; for something lighter, use white quinoa.
You'll need a large, flat-bottomed serving dish.
MAKE AHEAD: The quinoa can be cooked a day or two in advance and refrigerated. The quinoa's vegetable mixture should be folded in just before serving. The pecans can be buttered up to 2 days in advance; drain off excess butter and store at room temperature in an airtight container. The dressing can be made and refrigerated up to several hours in advance. The baked kale can be re-crisped in a 300-degree oven for a few minutes shortly before serving.
Adapted from Jesse Miller, executive chef of Bar Pilar in the District of Columbia.
For the quinoa
• 5 cups cooked red quinoa (from 2 cups dried; see headnote)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1 small carrot, scrubbed well and diced
• One 2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger root, grated
• Finely grated zest of 1 grapefruit
• Finely grated zest of 1 orange
For the squash
• 1 medium kabocha or acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
• Seeds from 2 green cardamom pods
• 1 tablespoon ground coriander
• 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
• 1 tablespoon ground cumin
• 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
For the kale
• 1 bunch lacinato kale (1 pound), stemmed
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil
For the pecans
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
• 1 sprig fresh rosemary
• 1 sprig fresh thyme
• 1 cup raw, unsalted pecan halves
• Pinch kosher salt
For the dressing
• 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) mascarpone
• 1/4 cup red miso
• 1/4 cup water
Steps For the quinoa: Place the quinoa in a large mixing bowl.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion, carrot and all but 1 teaspoon of the ginger; cook for about 4 minutes or just until the onion has softened slightly but the carrot is still firm. Stir in the citrus zests.
If serving right away, fold the vegetable mixture into the quinoa, then spread the mixture on the bottom of the serving dish. Otherwise, cool the vegetable mixture and store it separately from the quinoa.
For the squash: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and fibrous bits. Cut the squash into 3/4-inch pieces.
Combine the cardamom seeds, coriander, turmeric, cumin, brown sugar and the remaining teaspoon of grated ginger in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the oil and vinegar until the brown sugar dissolves. Add the squash and toss until evenly coated. Use tongs to transfer the squash pieces to the baking sheet, spacing them well apart; discard any leftover oil-and-vinegar mixture. Roast for about 30 minutes or until lightly caramelized.
If serving right away, arrange the squash pieces atop the quinoa mixture; otherwise, cool, cover and refrigerate. You'll be using the baking sheet again, as is.
For the kale: Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
Rinse the kale and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into bite-size pieces and spread them on the baking sheet, then drizzle with the oil and toss to coat. Separate the leaves on the sheet so they'll crisp evenly. Bake for 5 minutes, then use tongs to turn the kale over. Bake for 5 minutes or until crisped. Let the leaves cool.
For the pecans: Melt the butter in a small, ovenproof saute pan over medium-low heat, taking care to let it just turn brown but not burn.
Meanwhile, remove the rosemary and thyme leaves from the sprigs, pressing their leaves slightly between your fingers to release their oils. Add to the brown butter and cook for 30 seconds, then add the pecans and salt. Turn off the heat; toss the pecans to coat evenly.
For the dressing: Whisk together the mascarpone and red miso in a bowl. Add the water and whisk until well incorporated.
When ready to serve, layer the crisped kale on top of the squash. Top with the buttered pecans, then drizzle with half the miso-mascarpone dressing; pass the remaining dressing at the table.
Nutrition | Per serving (based on 10, using half the dressing): 430 calories, 7 g protein, 33 g carbohydrates, 31 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 180 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar