It’s been such a long time. I’ve missed this space. I’ve missed you guys. I’m back from Peru and have so much to tell you about the trip.
But first, some exciting news. I started a new job!
Maybe you prepare for a new role by self-reflecting and setting goals for success, researching the company and industry, honing skills that might need, well, honing. I did all those things, but I spent my last days of freedom figuring out how I was going to transition from a home office to an office office: I chose my first-week outfits.
And then I decided to mix and match in the kitchen too. I prepped food over the weekend so that, morning or evening, I could open my fridge and pantry like a closet, easing the scramble to pack lunch or throw together dinner. There were greens and herbs to clean, vegetables to roast, dressings and sauces to whisk, meats and grains to cook, nuts to toast.
A few rules of thumb. The vegetables last a few days, so don’t make too much. Dressings are usually good for two weeks unless they contain fresh herbs. Sauces, meat, and grains are easy to freeze, and toasted nuts stay fresh in a jar for at least a month, so make a lot and squirrel them away.
I started week one with butternut squash, using farro that I made a while back and froze.
Tomorrow is a tabouli-like bulgur salad. More on that later, but, right now the big question is … what shall I wear?
Butternut squash and farro salad with pepitas and ricotta salata
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Farro, wheat berries, freekeh, barley, brown rice, quinoa – use whatever grains you have around. (Yes, I know quinoa is a seed.) I roasted the squash at a slightly higher temperature and used scallions instead of red onions. Don’t skip the pumpkin seeds, and definitely don’t skip toasting them. The crunch is worth it.
While you’re at it, make extra squash (keeps in the refrigerator for a few days), farro (freeze for a few weeks), and pepitas (store in a jar for a few weeks).
Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 for lunch
- 2 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
- 4-5 T olive oil, divided
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 C dried farro (or wheat berries, freekeh, barley, etc.)
- 1 T sherry vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
- 1 T water
- 1/2 t salt
- 1/2 t granulated sugar
- 2 scallions
- 1/3 C pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 3 oz ricotta salata or another salty cheese (about 3/4 C crumbled) – a dry feta would work well too
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Roast. Cut the butternut squash between the bulb and neck to make peeling easier. Spoon out the seeds. Cut the squash into pieces about 3/4-inch all around. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the squash out in one layer. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast until pieces are browned and tender, about 30 – 40 minutes. Shake the pan once or twice during roasting.
Simmer. While the squash is roasting, make the wheat berries (or other grains or quinoa) according to the package directions and drain. If you have one, use a pressure cooker! Otherwise, this “beyond rice” guide from the January 2013 Cook’s Illustrated is really helpful. Let the drained grains cool a bit.
Whisk. While the squash is roasting and the grains are simmering, prepare the dressing. Whisk in a small bowl or jar the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar. There will not be a lot of liquid. Thinly slice the scallions and add them to the dressing. There will be more scallion than dressing. Let the scallions mellow in the brine for at least 10 minutes.
Toast. In a small pan, toast the pepitas over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Shake the pan a few times while toasting. The seeds will color slightly, puff up, and some will even pop. Once the pepitas are ready, mix with a teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Mix. In a large bowl, mix together the squash, grains, scallions and brine. Toss. Crumble half the cheese over the salad and add half the pepitas and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss again. Before serving, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and pepitas.