Fall has arrived…
I’m back from a two-month hiatus and am hungry (figuratively and literally). Was busy walking the Camino de Santiago (a 500-mile walk across northern Spain beginning in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, and ending in Santiago de Compostela, Spain). Thereafter, did a little traveling (culinary research [i.e., eating]) in Portugal and Ireland.
On most days along the Camino, I walked approx. 20 miles. With all those cumulative steps, my appetite has increased exponentially. No matter how much I eat, can’t seem to quiet my ever-growling stomach. The Camino was an experience of a lifetime. Still can’t believe I completed it. Not sure it’s all sunk in quite yet. Perhaps I will jot down my thoughts about the Camino at some point?
When I left for Spain in early-September, tomatoes, peppers, and other summery items were plentiful at the farmers’ markets. Now, I see lots of winter squash, pumpkins…feel like I missed a whole season while I was gone.
While I love to travel, the thing I really miss about being away is cooking and well-prepared vegetables. Most menus, particularly in Spain and Portugal, are sans vegetables — with the exception of the ubiquitous ensalada mixta (a measly iceberg lettuce salad with a few sad, pale-looking slices of tomato), potatoes (lots and lots of potatoes, fried or boiled most commonly), and, occasionally, some boiled (read: mushy) vegetables. I find this a bit strange as I’ve spotted plenty of fresh vegetables at grocery stores (and growing in the fields) along the way??
After nearly two months of living out of a backpack, it feels nice to stay put for a bit. To slowly get back in the old routine. Was excited to wake up this past Sunday morning and head to the farmers’ market to gather ingredients for the week. Picked up an assortment of winter squash — kabocha, delicata, and butternut (there are so many other varieties to explore). Feels good to be home (well, until travel calls once again).
Decided to start things off with a seasonal salad…roasted squash, roasted onions, pomegranate seeds, salad greens, toasted pecans, watermelon radish, radish microgreens, and a pomegranate molasses vinaigrette.
Pomegranate molasses is pomegranate juice that has been reduced to a syrup. It’s not overly sweet, especially if you buy a version without added sugar (which I prefer), but rather has a tangy and tart quality to it.
What else can you do with pomegranate molasses?
Some traditional uses…Fesenjoon is an Iranian chicken stew with ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses, dried plums, served over rice. Mouhamara is a dip of red bell peppers, ground walnuts, and pomegranate molasses.
Or, as a glaze or marinade for meat, drizzled over roasted vegetables, jazz up a cocktail (did you know grenadine is made from pomegranate syrup?), over vanilla ice cream or thick Greek yogurt…
Roasted Winter Squash and Pomegranate Salad
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ~1/2-inch rounds or half-circles
1 small delicata squash, seeded, and cut into ~1/2-inch rounds or half-circles (skin on)
1 medium red onion, sliced into wedges
watermelon radish, thinly sliced
pomegranate molasses vinaigrette (recipe below)
sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the butternut, delicata squash, and onion wedges with olive oil to lightly coat. Season with salt and pepper. Lay on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 10 minutes. Flip the pieces of squash and onion wedges with a spatula and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, until tender and golden brown. Let cool.
Spread pecans on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven at 325F for 10-15 minutes, tossing from time to time, until lightly golden and fragrant.
Toss all ingredients in a serving bowl/platter. Dress with pomegranate molasses vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper.
Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (make sure it doesn’t have added sugar)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
squeeze of half a lemon
1 tablespoon honey, more or less to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Whisk all the ingredients by hand or in a blender.