Sunday, October 20, 2013

Roasted Squash and Pomegranate Farro Salad

When it comes to squash I'm a real idiot.  It's not an ingredient that I was familiar with growing up, so I just know nothing about them.  Sure, I've eaten squash prepared for me before, but they were more or less Halloween decorations until now (they are real pretty).

I was impressed by the variety and extremely low cost of the squash on display at the grocery store across the street, so I bought four types and went about conducting a taste test.  I sliced and roasted a standard green acorn squash, a white acorn squash, a gold acorn squash, and a butternut squash.  What I was going to do with all this roasted squash was a complete mystery, but I figured it would transform into some sort of soup and some sort of salad.  Mostly, I was curious about how different they would actually taste from one another.

Turns out, they all taste (and smell) like squash.  I know that seems silly, but I don't know how else to put it.  However, they did vary in sweetness.  By far the most important distinction was texture.  The green acorn definitely held its firmness much better than the others, so it's perfect for salads.  The others, in their creaminess or pastiness, made their way into a three-squash soup (coming later this week to the blog).  The green acorn was the mid-range of sweetness, which I also found preferable for a salad with other sweet ingredients (like pomegranate seeds). 

So, despite the lack of alarming or remarkable results, all the squash was quite tasty.  I was particularly pleased that the seeds were easy to flavor, toast, and incorporate into this salad.  It's a very balanced dish when the spices of the squash seeds and sweetness of the pomegranate seeds make their way into the same bite.  The seeds are also a nice textural contrast to the soft farro and squash.  The balance of flavors meant that I didn't have to season the final dish at all, so it stayed low-sodium and low-fat.  It's a rather perfect fall salad, so go grab some squash.

Ingredients (makes 4 servings):
  • 1 medium acorn squash (meat and seeds)
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 tbsp. chopped scallions
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil

Spices for Toasted Acorn Seeds:
  • 1/4 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • pinch of black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees for roasting the squash.  Half the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, setting them aside for toasting later.  Slice the halves into 3/4 inch crescents, coat lightly with olive oil and season with salt.  Roast on an aluminum-lined baking pan for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
As the squash roasts, boil 1 cup of farro in 3 cups of water.  Once at a boil, turn down to a simmer and cover for 15 minutes until al dente.  Drain the remaining water, and set aside in a large bowl to cool.
Yield the seeds from the pomegranate by cutting off the stem, and scoring the pomegranate skin in quarters.  Soak the scored pomegranate in water for a few minutes, before breaking it apart and seeding it under water.  The pith with float to the surface of the water as you continue to agitate the seeds.  Drain them and side them aside.
When the squash is done, allow it to cool almost completely before cutting it away from the skin and into cubes.   
Similar to the process for seeding the pomegranate, soak the squash seeds and pith in water, and agitate to separate the seeds.  Discard as much of the pith as possible.  Use the same pan to toast the acorn seeds.  Toss the seeds in the olive oil, salt, paprika, cumin, and pepper, then spread evenly on the aluminum foil.  Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, tossing halfway through.
When all the ingredients are prepared, toss together in a large bowl with 1 tbsp. of olive oil and chopped scallions.

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