Orange and brown Earth tones set off by a boatload of green flat-leaf parsley and purple onions make this filling autumn salad a visual mosaic that tastes as complex as it looks. With earthy, nutty, herbal, floral, fruity and citrusy notes, and a bevy of contrasting tastes, it will have people scratching their heads trying to guess what’s in the dressing.
The secret is a blend of spices, including grains of paradise, allspice, coriander and cumin. While you’re probably familiar with the latter three, the first one might be new to you. Grains of paradise are the seeds of a plant related to ginger and native to West Africa. They look like small pearls of buckwheat, but biting into one releases a potent heat that’s similar to black pepper with a warm lingering flavor that’s a bit like cinnamon. Together with the other spices, the blend gives the salad a spicy/sweet flavor that’s best described as a cross between curry and apple pie.
Paired with a dressing made from tart, earthy preserved lemons and olive oil, along with plenty of verdant parsley, it’s one of those dishes that comes together in a different mix of tantalizing tastes and textures with every bite.
Butternut Squash and Farro Salad
- 23 ounces butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (1 small squash)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- pinch black pepper
- 1/2 cup farro
- 2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander seed
- 1/4 teaspoon grains of paradise
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2.5 ounces preserved lemons
- 1 ounce pine nuts, toasted
- 1 ounce red onion, minced (1/4 small onion)
- 0.2 ounces flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
- Put the cubed butternut squash in a bowl and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Dump the squash onto a non-stick baking sheet (you can line a regular sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat) in a single layer.
- Roast the butternut squash in a 350 degree F oven until tender and slightly browned around the edges (about 30-40 minutes).
- While the squash roasts, put the farro in a saucepan along with the stock. Bring to a boil, and then turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. The amount of time it takes to cook depends on the type of farro, so check the package for cooking times. When the farro is cooked, drain in a sieve.
- To make the dressing, put the allspice, coriander seed, grains of paradise and cumin in a blender. Grind the spices into a powder. Add the olive oil and preserved lemons and blend to puree. The mixture will be pretty thick, but this is fine.
- When the butternut squash and farro are done, put them in a large bowl with the toasted pine nuts and red onion and toss with the dressing. Finish by tossing in the parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.