This salad is so pretty! I always say I like my food to look pretty, because you essentially eat with your eyes first. I have been using all the fall ingredients I love, and having so much fun with it. What could be more fun than tasting the season in your plate? I usually get a strange excitement when I am cooking, sometimes I dance my way to the fridge to grab the next ingredient. If the kids catch me while doing their homework, they smile and say “mama you loca!” Well, maybe I am a little bit crazy about food, but that doesn’t make me dangerous 🙂 Back to the looks of this amazing warm autumn salad recipe; it just has beautiful colors from the combination of two grains, squash, and spinach.
The two grains that give the salad some of its beautiful color are wheat berries, and black rice. Both grains are very nutritious, they have a nutty flavor, and a nice chewy bite in the center of the grain. Black rice was love at first bite for me, as I described it in Rice it up! 6 Types of Rice for Everyday Cooking, one of my first posts. Now, these grains do require some time to cook, the black rice cooks in about 35 minutes; and the wheat berries may take 50 minutes to 1 hour. Don’t panic! You could cook the grains ahead of time, even the night before, and warm it up right before you assemble the salad. I toast the grains first, with a little bit of olive oil to bring out some of the nutty flavors, before adding water. For this recipe I cook them almost like you would pasta, adding more water than needed and tasting them along the way, until they reach the desired doneness.
As for the rest of the ingredients that make this salad AMAZING, roasted butternut squash, and Delicata squash, spinach, and caramelized onions. Everything cooks separately, then the flavors come together with a tangy dressing. A burst of autumn in your mouth: sweet, nutty, earthy, tangy, filling, and most importantly DELICIOUS! Are we ready to make this warm autumn salad? Let’s get cooking!
(serves 6 as a side dish)
1 Cup wheat berries
1/3 Cup black rice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoon salt
1 Delicata squash, halved length wise, seeded, and sliced
1 Small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
1 Medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt & pepper to taste
2 Cups fresh spinach, chopped
3 Tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
Zest of 1 lemon
1/3 Cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
You’ll need to cook the grains separately, using the same method: In a small sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the wheat berries, stirring occasionally to toast, about 2 minutes. Stir 3 cups of water into the wheat berries, add 1 teaspoon salt, bring to a simmer, and stir once. Partially cover, simmer for 50 minutes to 1 hour. After about 45 minutes start tasting the wheat berries, continue cooking and tasting every 5 minutes or so, until you reach the desired doneness. They should be tender and chewy. Repeat with the black rice, start tasting after 25 minutes. It should take about 35 minutes to reach a tender and chewy bite. Both grains should be tender but not mushy at all. Drain the grains, and let cool slightly.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400 F. Place Delicata squash, and butternut squash in a baking sheet, in one single layer, you may need two sheets. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, cook in the oven until a fork inserted in the squash comes out easily, about 25 minutes.
In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat, add diced onion and sugar, season with salt and pepper, cook stirring occasionally until caramelized, about 10 minutes.
Make the dressing, in a small bowl whisk all the ingredients, adding the olive oil in slow strikes to emulsify, season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the warm squash to a bowl, and toss gently with a light coating of the dressing. In a big bowl combine warm grains, caramelized onions, and chopped spinach. Toss with the remaining dressing. Top with dressed squash and fold gently. Serve immediately or keep in a warm oven. Enjoy!
Cook’s Note: You can cook the grains ahead, keep refrigerated in a tight lid container for up to 3 days. Lightly coat with olive oil before refrigerating. Heat up before assembling the salad and combining with the rest of the ingredients.
This recipe was inspired by the cookbook Ad Hoc at Home by chef Thomas Keller.