Roasted Pumpkin and Lentil Salad
It's the time of year for all things pumpkin so look for a new pumpkin recipe each week around here. It all starts with Roasted Pumpkin and Lentil Salad. Because we’ve got to have something other than pumpkin spice lattes all month, right?
Salads for Fall
When people think of salads, often they envision something cold and green with croutons. And yes, that does describe some salads, especially those served before a main entree. But the salad universe has expanded exponentially over the years.
Salads now are meals in themselves with added proteins, toppings, and dressings. A friend told me recently that she loves salads that are not just lettuce but consist of other veggies. Yes!
Roasted vegetables are a colorful and delicious foundation (or addition) for autumnal salads. The roasting process brings out the more concentrated flavors of late summer and fall vegetables alike. Think beets, potatoes, tomatoes, and squashes of all kinds.
Yes, pumpkin is fantastic in sweet pies, dessert bars, and, of course, lattes. But pumpkin is also great in savory dishes. The secret is to treat it like the squash it is.
Pumpkin belongs to the winter squash family, or cucurbita genus. Like its relatives acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash, pumpkins have a hard outside rind and large, fully matured seeds inside. They are almost always eaten cooked rather than raw.
Boiled, steamed, mashed, and pureed are all popular ways that pumpkin is prepared. But the most tasty? Roasted.
Pumpkins are 90 percent water, so boiling, steaming, mashing, and pureeing can all leave you with a slightly watery orange mess. Roasting? It whisks away most of the moisture and leaves behind a concentrated and deep flavor.
The veggie shines on its own, but it also plays well with things like lentils.
Lentils are sometimes called grain legumes or pulses. Technically, they are seeds from a legume pod. They are a staple in cuisines all over the world, especially Asia, Africa, and parts of the Mediterranean.
When I was a kid, I thought lentils tasted like dirt.
Granted, they do have an earthy taste. But! Different types of lentils have different flavors.
- Brown. These taste the earthiest and are probably the kind I ate as a child. They are most often used in soups and stews.
- Green. More peppery than brown lentils, these hold their shape when cooked and are used in salads and grain dishes.
- Red. Nuttier and sweeter than the other two types, red lentils turn to mush once cooked. They are used in Indian dhal and as a thickener in soups.
These little seeds are nutrition powerhouses. In addition to being high in vitamin B, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, lentils also contain a good amount of protein and iron. They make a great alternative to animal protein for both vegetarians and carnivores.
- You can prep the individual items for this salad in advance. If you cook the lentils and roast the pumpkin a day ahead, all you need to do at meal time is assemble the salad.
- Don’t have, or like, Manchego? Swap it out for another cheese you have on hand. I made this with feta and it was yummy!
- This dressing is delicious on other salads and keeps well for two weeks. Consider making a double or triple batch and having it on hand in your fridge.
- 3 cups cubed pumpkin or butternut squash
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp salt
- ¾ cup dried green lentils
- 4 cups baby kale or salad greens
- ⅓ cup shredded Manchego cheese
- 1 Tbsp. shallots, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or foil.
- Toss the pumpkin with oil, paprika, cumin, and salt. Pour the cubes onto the prepared baking sheet and arrange them into a single layer, allowing space between each piece. Roast for 30 minutes, turning cubes over halfway through cooking time.
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add a teaspoon of salt if desired, then add the lentils. Cook for 30 minutes or until tender but still firm. Drain in a mesh strainer and rinse with cool water. Set aside.
- Make the dressing by combining shallots, vinegar, mustard, and oil in a jar with a screw-top lid. Cover and shake until the ingredients are combined. Add salt and pepper if desired.
- Assemble the salad by equally dividing the kale among 4 plates or bowls. Top greens with roasted pumpkin and lentils. Garnish with cheese and a drizzle of the dressing.
Keywords: roasted pumpkin and lentil salad