Pumpkin, Strawberry and Gorgonzola ‘Traybake’ Salad

Okay, so I love a traybake. I love the simplicity, the lack of washing up, and the lack of plating up. But to be fair, this is more of a traybake-salad hybrid. In the spirit of the one-pan dinner (my preferred way to cook) you can literally take this one straight from the oven to the table with just a little artless assembly (my preferred way to assemble) along the way.

Half of the inspiration for this has been brewing in my mind for a few weeks now. My sister-in-law, Lilli, was going to be in town and asked if I’d like to meet for lunch after I finished up at work. We decided to meet at Old Friend bistro and bar on Pirie Street where I had caught up with, aptly, an old friend for lunch a few weeks before. By happy circumstance, my husband’s office was a street away and he was free for lunch, and our nephew, Christopher, and his girlfriend, Alice, were also around and free for lunch! Our lunch for two became an impromptu family catchup for six. The fabulous yet concise menu at Old Friend provides something to please everyone, yet it was Alice’s vegan roast pumpkin salad that was the table showstopper and the source of lots of plate envy: think thick wedges of roasted pumpkin with salad leaves, grilled stone fruit and accessorised with ruby red pomegranate jewels. It looked so beautiful on the plate that it has stuck in my mind as something I might one day try to replicate.

The other half of the inspiration for this recipe was a salad I made for a Christmas brunch a few years ago which consisted of baby spinach leaves, pecans, gorgonzola and strawberries. Blue cheese isn’t to everyone’s liking, and even if it isn’t your fromage du jour, I urge you to be open-minded: the sharp saltiness of the cheese is the perfect counterbalance to the sweetness of fruit, and this salad is a perfect example of how to make these flavours work in perfect harmony.

So, I have taken the essence of the strawberry, spinach and gorgonzola salad and coupled it with roasted pumpkin to create something that is sure to prove that you can, very much, make friends with salad!

 

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PUMPKIN, STRAWBERRY AND GORGONZOLA TRAYBAKE SALAD
Serves 4 as a main or 8 as an entree

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 large Jap pumpkin; seeds reserved
  • 100g pecans
  • 1 punnet strawberries; leaves removed, quartered
  • 2 large handfuls (about 120g) beetroot leaves (or rocket or baby spinach)
  • 100g pecan kernels
  • 180g Gorgonzola Dolce cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 10 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • A good pinch of salt

METHOD

Preheat oven to 220C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Slice the pumpkin into 8 equal sized wedges and reserve the seeds. Separate the seeds and remove the stringy fibres. Arrange the pumpkin pieces on the tray so they are evenly spaced.

Sprinkle the pecans and pumpkin seeds evenly over the tray and drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and a sprinkle of salt.

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Place the tray in the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender and the skin is a little coloured, being careful to roast but not burn the pecans. Do not to overcook or else the pumpkin will not hold its shape.

Meanwhile, in a small jar with a secure lid, add the honey, the remaining oil, and the balsamic vinegar. Shake vigorously to make a dressing making sure the honey is totally combined. Set aside.

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Remove the tray from the oven and distribute the leaves evenly over the pumpkin still in the tray. Then, evenly sprinkle over the quartered strawberries.

With your hands, break up the gorgonzola into small blobs and dot the salad with the cheese, then sprinkle over the sunflower seeds.

Give the jar of dressing a final shake and then drizzle a few tablespoons over the whole salad.

Place the whole tray on the table with a few salad servers and the jar of leftover dressing on the side, and let everyone help themselves.

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Warm Greek Bean Salad

This is more Greek inspired than it is a Greek dish. I wanted something to complement my ‘Stolen’ Lamb and Potato Packets and given it was a cold wintery Adelaide Hills night a cold salad was not going to cut it.

The most actual cooking you’re going to do here is boil the kettle and pop a few tomatoes on an oven tray. The rest is just some artless assembly – the salad doesn’t even need tossing.

Here you will find most of the usual suspects in a Greek salad: tomato, crumbly feta, kalamata olives, extra virgin olive oil and oregano, but I’ve replaced lettuce with warmed green beans. You could also top the salad with some fresh chunky-cut Lebanese cucumber if you wanted to cut through the saltiness, particularly if you opt to be heavy handed with the olives and feta. I have a particular preference for the multicoloured cherry tomato medley packs you can buy now but you can really use whatever tomatoes you want. A little Jamie Oliver trick is to salt the tomatoes generously and leave to rest a little before roasting to draw out the juices. The tomatoes taste sweeter when you do this.

WARM GREEK BEAN SALAD

Serves 2 as a generous side

This is salad, not chemistry: adjust measurements as you please. Quantities given below are a guide.

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g green stringless beans, trimmed
  • 150g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 80g kalamata olives
  • 80g Greek style feta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • A pinch of salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200C.

Arrange tomatoes, cut side up, on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle over salt, pepper, oregano and drizzle with a tablespoon of oil.

Bake tomatoes for 15 – 20 minutes or until they start to colour but still hold their shape. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. You want them to be warm on your salad.

Boil a kettle of water. While the water is heating up, place the beans in a salad bowl.

Pour enough boiling water to just cover the beans and allow to stand about 2 minutes or until the colour of the beans intensifies. Drain the beans and dry the bowl fore retuning the warmed beans to the salad bowl.

Drizzle another tablespoon of oil and the vinegar over the beans and toss a couple of times to cover. Add the olives and crumble over the feta before topping the whole lot with the warm roasted tomatoes.

Give a last drizzle with the remaining oil and sprinkle with a pinch of extra dried oregano before serving.