Healthier choice recipe: Roasted pumpkin salad

Roasted Pumpkin Salad, with cranberries and pumpkin seeds.
PHOTO: Healthier choice recipe: Roasted pumpkin salad

It is not just a pretty face: A pumpkin's vivid orange flesh hints at the rich antioxidants and other vitamins that can be found within.

It is loaded with vitamin A and alpha and beta-carotenes, while also being a good source of vitamins C, K, and E and minerals, which include magnesium, potassium and iron.

Antioxidants play a role in cancer prevention while magnesium and potassium help keep muscles functioning at their best.

But those benefits, while very good, are not why I like making this salad.

I love the sweet nutty taste of roasted pumpkin and I have recently discovered that I can roast it in large wedges, like how you usually find them sold on supermarket shelves, without having to wrestle with cutting them into pieces.

You do not even need to peel them because after roasting, the skin of the pumpkin softens beautifully, such that you can easily eat it.

Best of all, the sugars in the vegetable caramelise, giving it a golden colour and a rich sweetness that truly enhances its taste.

Roasting takes just half an hour, after which the whole roasted wedge takes pride of place on a plate, surrounded by baby spinach or any mixed salad leaves.

You then dress the lot with a honey mustard dressing. I make mine in a jar so it is easy to dispense whenever I need it.

I also like a scatter of nuts and, in this case, roasted pumpkin seeds which bring their own goodness and delicious crunch to the dish.

Pumpkin seeds help to enhance one's mood and are loaded with essential fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6. Omega 3 fatty acids may help lower your risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis.

Add some red tomatoes and dried cherries or cranberries as well, for even more colour on the plate.

To serve, just use a spoon to dig into the roasted squash, which gives way easily. Then scoop a portion of the leaves and everything else.

By the way, this makes a robust and filling meal. It also goes well with any roasted meat or fish, or even a rice or pasta dish.

All these possibilities from just a salad, where the main effort is just to roast the pumpkin; everything else is assembled from the larder.

That is the kind of cooking I like to do, never mind the excellent nutrients found in the pumpkin.

wdspice@gmail.com

Sylvia Tan is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her previous recipes for Eat To Live can be found in two cookbooks, Eat To Live and Taste.

RECIPE

Roasted pumpkin salad (Serves four)

INGREDIENTS

A wedge of pumpkin (about 500g)

A bag of washed baby spinach leaves

4 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges

½ cup of dried cranberries or cherries

2 tbs roasted pumpkin seeds

Olive oil, for roasting

DRESSING

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice from ½ lemon, or to taste

1 tbs honey

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp salt

Black pepper, to taste

METHOD

Heat the oven to 180 deg C.

Rub olive oil over the pumpkin, together with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Spray some oil on the oven tray and place the pumpkin in it.

Roast for about half an hour or till the pumpkin turns golden.

Check the pumpkin about 10 minutes before the end of roasting time. If the flesh gives when you touch it with a spoon, the pumpkin is ready.

Remove the pumpkin from the oven and leave it aside to cool.

In the meantime, place a bed of spinach on a plate large enough to accommodate everything.

Place the roasted pumpkin in the middle and scatter tomato wedges, dried berries and pumpkin seeds all over.

Place the ingredients for the dressing in a jar. Cover tightly and shake well to amalgamate the flavours. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Just before serving, pour half of the dressing over the salad and toss. Add more dressing if needed.

Serve either on its own or as a side dish.

This article was first published on May 22, 2014. Get a copy of Mind Your Body, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.