December has arrived. While it’s not snowing (thank goodness!) it has been pretty rainy and dreary this week. I tend to gravitate, as many off you I’m sure, to colorful food. Lucky for us there are a few farmers markets in Westchester that run through the winter, and you can still find some great ingredients. Gone are the tomatoes, but here for the duration are gorgeous winter squash in all shapes and sizes. This week I pulled together French lentils, winter squash and kale, to make a delicious bright and tasty salad. You can eat this warm or room temperature. Either way it’s a perfect salad to have on it’s own, or with a bowl of soup.
To read more about my inspiration in creating this recipe click this link: Creating a Winter Squash Salad.
French Lentil, Winter Squash and Kale Salad
¾ cup French lentils
2 lb winter squash, rinsed well, peeled and cute in 1” cubes (see note)
1 small red onion, cut in half and then 1” slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper
½ bunch winterbor kale, stems stripped and roughly chopped, about 4 packed cups
1 red Bartlett pear, core removed and cut in 1” pieces
½ cup roasted and peeled chestnuts, quartered with your hands
½ cup pomegranate arils
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a small pot bring 3 cups of water to boil. Add 1½ teaspoons of salt and the lentils. When the water comes back up to a boil lower the heat to a steady simmer and cook the lentils for about 20 minutes. You want them to be a little more than al dente, but not mushy. Turn off the heat and taste the lentils. If they need a little more seasoning add another teaspoon of salt and let it be absorbed. Drain and set aside in a big bowl..
3. While the lentils cook place the squash and onions on a rimmed sheet tray. Give it all a good drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until soft, about 20 minutes. Check after 15 minutes. When you are about 5 minutes away from being done add the kale to the tray and toss it all with a spatula. Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper over all and back in the oven for 5 minutes. The kale will wilt and partially crisp a little.
4. While the vegetables are cooking in the oven core and cut the pear. Try to make the pieces uniform if possible. Add the zest of the whole lemon and juice of ½ into the lentil bowl. Drizzle a little olive oil and mix thoroughly. Taste for seasoning.
5. Scrape the vegetables into the bowl and add the second half of the lemon juice. Mix in the chestnuts and arils. Taste for seasoning and serve warm or room temperature.
Cook’s note: You can use acorn squash for this dish, but it does tend to be messy trying to scoop out the cooked flesh. Kabocha squash on the other hand worked really well. Kabocha is a squat round dark green squash, easily found at the market and easy to peel. In a pinch butternut squash will work too.