This salad isn’t so much spicy as it is spiced. The pungency of the cumin calms down in the oven, and the smoky paprika is subtle. Perhaps it seems a bit strange to combine those spices in a salad that also includes ribbons of fresh mint and a splash of vinegar. It’s not. The flavors work well together, and this is a great salad for fall. This was my first roasted squash of the season, and as you can probably guess, it won’t be the last.
If you’re looking for a shortcut in this recipe, use delicata squash instead of butternut. You don’t have to peel the delicata and can go straight to chopping. As a bonus, the green and orange stripes on the yellow peel look very pretty. Otherwise this salad was very good as intended, and I didn’t really change anything except for reducing the amount of goat cheese and increasing the heat for the squash.
I also finally found French green lentils (at Fresh Market), and they are clearly much different from the everyday green lentils I usually have. The French lentils are on the left. They’re pretty different, as you can tell from the color alone. The French ones are smaller, rounder and hold their shape much better in a salad than the other lentils. I’ll use the French ones from now on for salads and the others ones for stews or soups.
If you’d like to know more about these pretty little lentils, check out this post from David Lebovitz. And one more thing – I don’t usually soak lentils, but I went ahead with the instructions to do so in this recipe. The lentils were perfectly cooked in the end, so I’d say go with it.
p.s. The third In Our Kitchen column is in today’s paper!
spicy squash and lentil salad with goat cheese
French green or Puy lentils are best for a salad like this. They’re smaller and hold their shape better than the more common and larger green lentils. As for toasting the pumpkin seeds, you can simply clean and pat dry the ones from the butternut squash and toast those. I didn’t have the patience that day for cleaning the seeds and used seeds I’d bought earlier from the store. If you’d like to save some for the next day’s lunch, add arugula per serving and store the arugula separately from the rest of the salad in the fridge.
3/4 cup French green lentils or lentilles du Puy
6 cups 1-inch pieces from a peeled and seeded 2-pound butternut squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon hot Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup softened goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
a handful of pumpkin seeds
Heat oven to 400°F. Place squash in a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, cumin, paprika, and sea salt. Spread out the squash onto a large baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Pull the squash and turn as many pieces over as you have the patience for before roasting them a little longer so they’re tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool. Toss a handful of pumpkin seeds in a bowl with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Spread out the seeds on a small baking sheet and roast them in the oven just until they begin to puff up and brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Keep an eye on them. They will burn quickly after that.
Gently combine lentils, squash, 1 tablespoon olive oil, mint, vinegar, and half of the goat cheese with your hands in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Serve salad with the rest of the goat cheese sprinkled over the top.
Serves 3 to 4. Adapted from Bon Appétit via Smitten Kitchen.