Winter Salad with Butternut Squash, Greens, Chicken and Candied Pecans

This salad!

winter saladI should have taken more pictures of it. This isn’t even really the finished salad, just the almost-finished salad. The finished version disappeared too fast to take pictures.  (The finished salad has chopped nuts and dressing on it).

This is the perfect winter salad, and the perfect antidote the cookies, cakes, cocktails, and candy that apparently we’re supposed to all be making and eating because it’s the holiday season.  Cookies are good and all but this salad is actually real food that’s delicious and you can eat for dinner and not feel like death afterwards.  butternut squash cubesThe salad components are simple: roasted butternut squash and red onions, a bag of salad mix from the farmers market, leftover roasted chicken, and some chopped candied pecans.   Oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, then it’s ready to eat. candied pecansThe candied pecans are a whole separate story…  My next door neighbors gave me a bag of pecans from their trees, and I guess I drank a ton of coffee the other day and actually sat down and shelled them all and made this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts.  It took forever to shell all of them, but jars of the finished nuts are nice Christmas presents that took time instead of money, which was very of important to me this year.   You could certainly substitute any kind of toasted nuts if you don’t feel like making this recipe, although I highly recommend it.  There’s a pinch of cayenne pepper in the spice mix that coats the nuts that really makes it taste amazing.

Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year! I hope you all are warm and happy, with good food on your table and friends and family close by.

WINTER SALAD with Butternut Squash, Roast Chicken and Candied Pecans

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • a few sprigs of fresh herbs: thyme, oregano, rosemary, whatever you have is fine
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • vinegar: apple cider vinegar or whatever you have
  • 1/2 lb. of mixed salad greens: use a spicy mix with some arugula and mustard greens in it
  • 1/2 c. candied pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 c. or so of leftover roast chicken, cut into cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the butternut squash and onions onto a cookie sheet with the fresh herbs. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

Put the salad greens in a bowl.  Top with roasted vegetables, chopped chicken and pecans.  Dress with oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

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Coconut Chana Masala

One of my friends makes the most fantastic Indian food.  I usually like to be the one cooking  for other people, but I would beg her to puhleeeezeeeee please please make Indian food again, pleeeeeze or I might actually keel over and die!  Then she moved to Los Angeles and I haven’t seen her in years now, let alone tasted any of her cooking.  It’s really tragic.   When I win the lottery, I’m going to buy a jet so that I can fly around the country visiting all my friends that have moved away.  This curry is my version of something my friend cooked a long time ago that I might not even be remembering accurately, but I think I’ve got it pretty close here.

This isn’t really an authentic chana masala at all, since chana masala doesn’t usually have coconut milk in it.  Coconut milk  ranks up there with butter, bacon and heavy cream, though, which means that you should put in everything and it will only make it better.  This also has some other spices in it that I think taste awesome but have nothing to do with authentic chana masala.

Oh, and anyone who talks smack about vegan cooking has never tasted this recipe.  The curry is wonderfully rich and creamy with a solid spicy kick from the cayenne pepper.  Serve it with basmati rice, some warm flatbread or tortillas and your favorite chutney for a seriously delicious meal.

Coconut Chana Masala 

Cook Time: 5 minutes plus 1-2 hours simmering on the stove.  This recipe is really, really, really easy and comes together super quickly.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans of garbanzo beans, drained
  • 2 small potatoes, diced into 1/2”cubes
  •  1 can coconut milk
  • 1”section of ginger, peeled
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 c. loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 3 tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 dried cayenne chili pepper (or less, depending on your spice preference)
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a blender, combine all the ingredients except the garbanzo beans and potatoes.*  Blend until smooth. ( This is not the way you’re supposed to make chana masala but it doesn’t matter because this way tastes amazing.)

In a large cast iron skillet (or a pot works fine too), combine the garbanzo beans, potatoes and the coconut milk-spice mixture from the blender.  Simmer on low heat for an hour or two.  (If you make it too spicy, you can add yogurt and some honey to cool it back down, although it won’t be vegan then.)   Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over basmati rice with a few sprigs of fresh cilantro.   This is one of those dishes that only gets tastier if you let it sit in the fridge for a day or two, so you’ll be happy if you end up with any leftovers, which you probably won’t.

*(and the salt and pepper…. that’s always last).