The human mind is a funny thing. On paper, it is this huge, impressive and ultra-reliable super-computer. It tells your heart exactly how many times per minute to beat to keep you alive; it keeps you breathing even when you are fast asleep. It remembers your birthday; remembers how to ride a bicycle after many years; and remembers (mostly!) where you put your car keys. It can add and multiply numbers; it can recall the name of a song from a few notes in the introduction. But it also has its faults. It can recall that you have met somebody but stubbornly forget their name. It keeps a record of even the most painful events in your life and replays them when you least expect it. It can convince you that you are ill, even if the rest of your body disagrees. It can make you ache ceaselessly for somebody’s affection, no matter how unattainable they are.
And sometimes it’s just plain confused.
For years I did not eat tomatoes. I thought they were the Devil’s Own Fruit, full of slimy pips that got everywhere (the pages of school library books are littered with glued-on dried tomato pips – the ghosts of sandwiches past!) and a taste that simply did not appeal. So for years, I would order salads and ask the kitchen to hold the tomatoes. Later, I stopped fussing so much, got salads with tomatoes, but gave them to my dining companions. And then slowly I learned to love sun-dried tomatoes…. and then cherry tomatoes… and finally I started eating most tomatoes. But every now and then I still order a salad and ask for no tomatoes; or choose a pasta dish based purely on the absence of tomatoes in the description. My tastebuds have changed but my mind stubbornly remembers my past dislike of tomatoes.
Salads in winter suffer from a similar problem. I love salad, but when it is minus 2 Celsius outside and somebody suggests a salad, in my mind’s eye I see the mountains of coldly crunchy iceberg lettuce with tooth-achingly chilled cucumber and I give a little involuntary shiver. Umm, no thanks, salads are summer foods! I know – my ultra-reliable brain told me so!
But of course, as illustrated above, the old brain does not always get it 100% right. Although salads are often cool, crisp and summery, living in the northern hemisphere and wanting to live a scurvy-free life (!) has taught me that it is possible to have rather heavenly, filling and satisfying salads even in Autumn and the depth of Winter.
One of the great things about this salad is that it is kind of “nose-to-tail” eating for butternuts – not only do you eat the flesh, but you also roast and eat the pips (using my recipe for spicy roasted pumpkin seeds) so very little goes to waste. Ideally, the butternut should still be warm when you serve the salad; and you should use the best quality balsamic vinegar you can afford for dressing. The sweetness of the butternut, the saltiness of the cheese, and the crunch of the seeds make for a bowl of wonderful contrasts and deeply satisfying flavours.
Don’t trust your brain – trust your tastebuds!
If you liked this recipe, you may also want to try these CookSister butternut squash creations:
- whole roasted butternut stuffed with spinach and feta
- roasted butternut squash and sage risotto
- creamy butternut squash bake
Or these squash recipes from other bloggers:
If you are wondering where I got the pretty little bamboo scoop holding the spiced pumpkin seeds in the photo below, it was kindly sent to me by Restaurantware, who make an attractive range of bamboo and recyclable plastic disposable crockery for catering professionals.
ROAST BUTTERNUT SQUASH & GORGONZOLA SALAD (serves 4)
1 small (or half of a large) butternut squash
olive oil for roasting
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups baby spinach leaves, washed & dried
150g Gorgonzola (or blue cheese of your choice)
1/4 cup spicy roasted pumkin seeds
3 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tbsp balsamic vinegar (I used spiced fig balsamic vinegar)
Salt and black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Peel the butternut squash, scoop out the seeds and chop into cubes or wedges, depending on your preference. Toss the pieces in the olive oil and ground cinnamon to coat, then spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes or until tender and beginning to brown.
If using the seeds from the same butternut squash to make my spicy roasted pumkin seeds, then do this while the butternut is roasting. Alternatively, use a batch of seeds you prepared earlier and save these for another batch.
Divide the washed spinach leaves between 4 shallow bowls or plates. Once the butternut is cooked, divide amongst the 4 plates and arrange on the leaves. Crumble the cheese and divide equally between the plates, sprinkling it over the leaves and butternut.
Mix together the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper for the dressing and drizzle over the salad. Top each plate with a quarter of the spicy roasted pumpkin seeds and serve.
NEWSFLASH – my 2011 calendars are now available! They are A3 size, printed on high quality heavy paper and make the perfect gift – for foodies, for those who love London or Italy or the beach – or those who simply love my Saturday Snapshots! And at £15.51 each they are an affordable luxury.
And in other news…
The May 2011 Plate to Page hands-on food writing and photography workshop presented by me, Meeta, Jamie and Ilva is now sold out - but register now if you are interested in Plate to Page II in Italy in Autumn 2011!