Cooking for the Wolf: Spicy Roast “Pumpkin,” Feta, and Olive Salad

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A few years ago, I was sitting with a keeper of mine, peering over her shoulder as she flipped through pictures of her time living in Europe.  I stopped her mid-flip.

“Whoa.  Wait.  What kind of tree is that??”

I stared at the beautiful, gnarled mass of twists, and marvelled at the way she captured the silvery green leaves in the light of the setting sun.

“It’s an olive tree I saw while traveling in Greece,” my keeper replied with a soft chuckle as I leaned forward for a better look.  Now, that’s a tree.  You can just see the ancient spirits roosting in that thing.  That day, I added “see an olive tree in person” to my “bucket list.”  I also gained a bit more respect for the bitter, little things that I would discard, spit out, or omit from my meals.

As I get older, I realize that many of the foods I swore off in my youth were because of a perceived notion of how they tasted, not an actual experience of tasting them.  It’s time for a “taste-budian renaissance” and the olive is first on the list!

A few months ago, I found myself sitting at that very same keeper’s dining room table, enjoying one of the most delicious salads I have ever had.  The kalamata olives in this particular salad was a huge part of this delectable experience.  My keeper sent me the recipe for this “spicy roast pumpkin, feta, and olive salad,” which I whipped up for dinner tonight!  Enjoy!

Courtesy of Bill Granger (my modifications are in italics):

The "spicy pumpkin" in my salad was actually spicy sweet potato, but it tasted just as good!

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
800 g pumpkin, cut into 2 cm cubes (I used a sweet potato, but you can also use a medium-sized butternut squash)
100 g baby spinach leaves*
150 g feta, crumbled*
20 Kalamata olives, pitted*
*Eyeball these amounts to suit the size of the pumpkin/squash/sweet potato
Dressing
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I used balsamic vinegar instead and it tasted great!)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot or red onion, finely sliced (optional)
pinch of dried tarragon (optional)
sweetener, to taste (optional) (My keeper uses honey or agave syrup, plain sugar would also work)

Preheat oven to 220ºC (425ºF).  Place the olive oil, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir to combine.  Add the pumpkin and stir to coat.  Transfer to a roasting tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender and slightly caramelized. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a bowl until combined. Divide the spinach leaves among four serving plates and scatter the pumpkin, feta and olives over the top.  Drizzle each salad with dressing.  Serves 4.

Mmmmm.... Now, that's a salad!

It’s less than a week before Christmas, fellow Life Warriors, and I’ve already eaten my share during recent visits with friends.  I’m determined to have a “vegetable state of mind” this week before facing the Christmas meals on the weekend, so I stocked up on some dark green leafy things and their relatives for some good ol’ clean eating.  Eating enough veggies has always been a problem for me, which is truly unfortunate because according to everything I have ever read, a veggie-based diet is the key to managing or perhaps, defeating any chronic disease.  There’s a push for more greens in the wolf’s bowl and this week, I’m determined to fill it!
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4 thoughts on “Cooking for the Wolf: Spicy Roast “Pumpkin,” Feta, and Olive Salad

  1. Pingback: Cooking for the Wolf (and Friends!!): Vegetarian Tapas « FACE FORWARD: Finding Life in Lupus

  2. I suppose you could try it with braised spinach, but I think that the raw spinach is a nice, fresh and crisp contrast to the cooked component of the salad. If you do try it, let me know how it turns out!

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