These salad recipes are made for the cooler days of autumn, when we crave richer, heartier fare and have ample fresh pumpkin on hand.
Many think of pumpkin as existing solely in dessert, especially in pie. In fact, pumpkin is a wonderful vegetable by itself in addition to being an adaptable ingredient in all kinds of savory dishes.
Pumpkin has a number of varieties, all of which are edible, but some are superior to others. The large ones that we carve into jack-o’-lanterns tend to be dry and stringy. Giant pumpkins, which may weigh over 1,000 pounds, follow suit. The original Halloween pumpkin is the Connecticut Field variety, which also makes a good pie. For the best eating, however, choose a denser, sweeter variety such as sugar or pie pumpkin; the pale-skinned Long Island Cheese pumpkin; a delicious Japanese pumpkin known as kabocha; bright orange French Red or Cinderella pumpkin; dusky peachy Sonia pumpkin; or blue-skinned Australian Queensland pumpkin. Don’t forget the wonderful delicata with its edible skin. The names may change with the location, but taken together they form a subtly colored palette of the fall harvest that can be roasted, steamed, boiled, microwaved, grated, stuffed, and served up in more ways than you can imagine.
Salad is just one of those ways, no matter the season and no matter what form your pumpkin takes. Pumpkin flesh brightens the color palette of winter salads when tossed with dark green and purple leaves. The nutty sweetness of pumpkin seed oil makes a wonderful addition to the stable of oils you have on hand to sprinkle over salads. You could even add some purée to a salad dressing to add body. Scatter roasted pumpkin seeds for added flavor and crunch. Be creative.
It can be hard to get your hands on a fresh pumpkin once the supply of fall pumpkins is gone. If you find yourself searching unsuccessfully, butternut squash is reliably available in grocery stores everywhere throughout the year and makes an excellent pumpkin substitute, with its smooth, creamy texture.
(For tips on opening and cutting pumpkin and other thick-skinned squash, see this article from the archive.)
Red Cabbage and Maple-Roasted Delicata Salad
This salad presents a rich painter’s palette, with deeply purple cabbage providing the background for splashes of orange squash brightened with flecks of creamy white goat cheese. For color and zesty flavor, it is the perfect accompaniment to roast pork or chicken. Add crisp roasted potatoes to make a complete harvest meal.
- ½ pound fresh delicate squash cut into ½-inch circles with seeds removed, about 6 pieces
- 1 teaspoon olive oil, plus more for brushing the squash
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 2 strips bacon
- ½ small head red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, plus more for sprinkling
- ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into ¼-inch dice
- 2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons toasted chopped pecans
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Brush the inside and outside of each squash circle with oil. Rub the maple syrup on the insides of each piece. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.
- Cool slightly.
- Cook the bacon until crisp in a large nonstick skillet. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon of the fat and add the oil to the skillet.
- Cook the cabbage in the oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until limp. Add the vinegar and stir for a few seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley and salt. Mix in the apple.
- Set out six plates and arrange equal portions of the cabbage mixture and a delicata circle on each plate. Top with the cheese and the pecans. Season with pepper to taste and an additional sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. Serve at room temperature.
Autumn Toasted Couscous Salad
Israeli couscous, a larger version of Moroccan couscous, is the size of peppercorns, has a nutty flavor, and is ideal for salads. Toasting the couscous deepens its flavor and enhances this savory and colorful mix of pumpkin, fennel, and cranberries, brightened with specks of parsley.
- 1½ pounds fresh pumpkin, seeds and fibers removed, cut into chunks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 ounces Israeli couscous (about 1¼ cups)
- 1½ cups apple juice
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- ½ cup finely minced fresh parsley
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries, chopped
- ⅓ cup finely chopped fennel root
- ¼ cup minced red onion
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Microwave the chunks of pumpkin on high for 5 minutes, or until almost tender.
- When cool enough to handle, peel the pumpkin, and coarsely chop enough to make 2 cups. Store the remainder in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the couscous and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the couscous browns a bit. Add the apple juice, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is almost tender, stirring occasionally. Add the pumpkin and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer, stirring to blend the flavors and color.
- Transfer the couscous to a large bowl, sprinkle with the salt, and cool slightly. Toss with the parsley, cranberries, fennel, and onion. Stir in the grapeseed oil and vinegar. Season with a few grinds of pepper. Taste and add more salt, if desired. Serve at room temperature.