Today’s salad could be seen as a winter alter ego to this tomato and einkorn wheat salad from half a year ago, and it is proof that my love story with einkorn wheat wasn’t just a summer crush.
Today’s salad mixes the ancient grain (see my previous post for more on the back story) with chunks of spiced and roasted potimarron (a.k.a. Hokkaido squash, my very favorite of all winter squashes), shallots, chopped fresh herbs, and walnuts.
It’s the kind of salad of both substance and grace with a good balance of textures that I am content to eat on its own for lunch, or serve as a side. It travels well, too, so it’s a fine option for a packed lunch, or when you have to take a dish somewhere.
In fact, I first made it to bring as my dinner contribution to our dear friends Derrick and Melissa’s apartment when they were visiting during the Paris snowpocalypse in early December, to go with the duck magrets that Derrick would be roasting.
Maxence liked it so much that when we got home that night — after a vivifying Velib’ ride across a snow-ridden city because we’d long missed the last métro — he specifically requested I write down how I’d made it, so I wouldn’t let it fall down the rabbit hole of good but forgotten ideas.
I followed his advice and scribbled the broad strokes of it in the little cooking notebook I keep, the cover of which makes me smile every time I pick it up. And I made the salad again with the next potimarron that came my way, and then with an unsuspecting butternut squash, and again with a potimarron for our New Year’s Eve party, where it did not quite outshine the guest magician who made our evening so special, but close.
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- 1 medium Hokkaido squash, about 1.2 kilos (2 1/2 pounds) (other winter squashes may be substituted; just make sure you pick a variety that holds its shape when cooked)
- 1 tablespoon ras-el-hanout, or other warm spice mix
- Ground cayenne pepper, to taste
- 380 grams (2 cups) uncooked einkorn wheat (spelt may be substituted)
- 2 medium shallots, peeled and finely minced
- One bunch fresh cilantro, parsley, tarragon, or a mix thereof, roughly chopped
- The meat from about 20 walnuts, crumbled
- Olive oil
- Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F).
- Split the squash into quarters using a large, well sharpened knife, and scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh. It is unnecessary to peel the squash if it's an organic Hokkaido or butternut squash, but if you're using another kind, you may have to peel it. Cut the flesh into bite-size cubes.
- Oil a rimmed baking sheet and spread the cubed squash on it. Sprinkle with the ras-el-hanout, cayenne pepper, and some salt. Drizzle with olive oil, toss well to coat, arrange in an even layer, and insert in the oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash is tender and golden in places, stirring halfway through. Let cool to room temperature.
- In the meantime, cook the einkorn wheat according to package instructions, adding the minced shallots to the cooking water. (I cook mine in my pressure cooker in a scant 3 cups of salted water with a bay leaf and the shallots, and it takes 25 minutes counting from the whistle of the valve.) Let cool to room temperature.
- In a large salad bowl, combine the einkorn wheat and roasted squash with the herbs, walnuts, and a generous sprinkle of pepper, working gently to avoid squishing the squash (haha). Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Serve immediately, or cover and reserve in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. You can also make the salad a day ahead, in which case I recommend holding the fresh herbs to add them just before serving.