Jan 13, 2008

Kobacha Salad with Bacon

I lucked into this recipe while watching the PBS series Chef Stories. If you're as much of a food nerd as I am, you'll enjoy hearing acclaimed chefs discuss their paths and attitudes about food. Then the good part... they demonstrate.

This recipe comes from Suzanne Goin, chef and co-owner of LA's Luques. Luques has won much acclaim for it's focus on local, organic produce and wild fish and naturally-raised meats.

This is a true fall-winter salad. It's warm and hearty and a different spin on the usual squash recipes you see this time of year. I'd never cooked with kabocha squash before. It's got the earthy richness of butternut, but isn't quite as sweet. Roasting it gives you one side with an amazing caramelized texture while the other side stays soft and steamy. It's a little bit of a challenge to peel. I used a veggie peeler after despairing of using a knife. The rind is hard. But next time, I think I'll try peeling it after roasting, which should be much easier. The recipe calls for dandelion greens, which I had trouble finding. So I subbed arugula, which has a nice peppery bite. It also includes ricotta salata cheese. I love it's crumbly, salty flavor.

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, toasted
one 2-lb kabocha squash (could substitute butternut)
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
8 slices thick sliced Applewood-smoked bacon, cut into 4-inch pieces
1/4 cup sliced shallots
4 oz dandelion greens or arugula
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
4 oz. ricotta salata cheese, cut into thin slices

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the squash in half and remove seeds. Carefully, remove peel using knife (if you're more coordinated than me) or vegetable peeler. Or better yet, slice them off after roasting. Slice squash into 1-inch thick wedges.

Toss the squash wedges with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, pepper and thyme. Place squash sides down on a large baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes or until squash can be pierced with a fork or knife.

Next, cook the bacon pieces, reserving 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Lay cooked bacon on paper towels to degrease.

To the bacon fat, add shallots. Sauté until just tender. Add vinegar to pan and swirl. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil and whisk together.

Put the greens in a large bowl, toss with most of the dressing and shallots. Place squash wedges on top and drizzle over remaining dressing. Top with bacon, ricotta salata and roasted pumpkin seeds.

4 servings

Adapted from Suzanne Goin's Chef Stories recipe.

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