[Eating Rainbow | Orange | Kabocha Squash]
Bacon, as um, colorfully striated as the rainbow itself, is not part of the Eating Rainbow. Hopefully, we don’t have to explain why.
However, that doesn’t mean we leave bacon out completely.
When used as a concentration of seasoning (salt) and flavor (fat!), it’s perfect on a warm salad of orangely healthy kabocha squash.
Kabocha squash is a smallish, round member of the winter squash family, with tough, thick skin that protects the gorgeous golden flesh inside for long, cold weeks at a time. It is the bright orange flesh of any similarly colored squash that is an outstanding source of vitamins A and C. These and other antioxidants (lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin) combined with the anti-inflammatory properties of squash make it important when it comes to concerns about cancer.
And let’s not overlook the indirect benefit of a stress-free food. Dr. Andrew Weil says that stress reduction (along with healthy eating) is one of the best ways to improve health. You can come home with a few kabocha squash and, unlike other more high-maintenance, delicate vegetables that need to be washed, prepped and eaten right away, forget about them on the counter for a few days — or even weeks — and come back to them when you have time.
Kabocha squash in this preparation doesn’t even require a lot of time and attention from you. Just cut, roast, and throw on top of greens with a simple vinaigrette. Super nutrients, stress-free, this salad will make you look and feel 10 years younger! (Results not typical, depends on each person.)
Kabocha Squash Salad with Bacon, Manchego and Pecans
inspired by a recipe from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin
1 Kabocha squash
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup pecan halves
4 slices extra-thick bacon (we used applewood smoked bacon), cut cross-wise into ½-inch-thick “lardons”
¼ cup sherry vinegar
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
4-5 handfuls of sturdy, bitter greens
Manchego cheese (to be shaved on top of each serving)
Preheat oven to 400.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Slice the squash lengthwise into ¾-inch wedges, then peel. Kabocha squash, like other winter squash, has a fairly thick, and very tough skin, so be careful.
Toss peeled squash wedges with olive oil, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste (about 2 teaspoons of salt and a few hard turns on a pepper mill). Place the squash wedges on their sides in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until soft, about 30 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat until a drop of water dropped into the dry pan sizzles away. Add the pecans and “toast” them, shaking the pan continuously, for about 5 minutes. Remove pecans from pan and set aside to cool. Turn down heat under the saute pan to medium.
Add the bacon lardons and cook until just barely turning crisp, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add sliced shallots and cook until shallots are soft. Remove the pan from the heat, add vinegar and swirl to combine and pick up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and set aside until squash is done.
Pour about ¾ of the bacon and vinaigrette from the pan over greens and pecan in a large bowl. Toss to combine, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange salad on plates, place squash wedges on top, then drizzle remaining vinaigrette over squash. Shave Manchego cheese over top.