SCENE: a roof-top flat. Low grey morning light enters through a slanted window, illuminating the kitchen below. Christmas Day. Not snowing. Emotions.
Woefully cubed pumpkin roasts generously in olive oil, cinnamon and garlic. CRUSHED. A family of red peppers bakes, So sweetly, until the skins are charred and peel-off-able. Pumpkin seeds are toasting hotly in a pan (snap! Pop!) while I whimper over a red onion.
Melodramatically forlorn. I am conjuring THE nostalgia salad – A salad inextricably linked with my idea of Christmas. In summer. With family. Near some body of water. There being a barbecue. Bad jokes. Paper hats. Tiddlywinks. Homegrown pumpkins.
Not yet assembled, let alone dressed, the mingling scents alone are devour-able.
OR SO I THOUGHT.
For moments later, one flatmate, possessing a remarkably under-performing olfactory system, mistakes the resting bowl of still-hot pumpkin for Yesterday’s Roast Carrots.
Die gestrigen Möhren.
And into the bin they went!
On behalf of the pumpkin, I was sorely offended. Sweet Cinnamon-laced Garlic Pumpkin adoration in a pretty little salad bowl should really be unmistakably UN-BIN-ABLE. But heartbreak quickly gave rise to bemusement. Could not “Die gestrigen Möhren” be the name of a HIP German swing band? Also, she then did most of my dishes.
Abandoned ingredients were repurposed and melancholy herself even lifted by lunchtime. Salad was decidedly forgotten, like so many good things.
THEN just last week, I came across a pile of beautiful, brightly orange Argentinian hokkaido pumpkins (well-traveled but also, paradoxically, organic) for sale and I’m still thinking what a fool I was to pass them by, having told myself there were so many Other things I’d already promised to make (even so, I paced the length of the vegetable aisle, even picking up the one I took to be the prettiest and putting it back down again, embarrassed by the weakness of resolve in either direction).
So I marched right back there this morning. The pumpkins were Still There. I clutched one to my chest, whispering fondly how very beautiful you are! And now we’re home and the oven is preparing herself while I set about slowly cubing the pumpkin and putting it all together. (Hokkaido pumpkins are incidentally my new favourite thing because they absolutely demand you NOT to peel them – pumpkin-peeling/self-loathing, they’re basically the same thing)
This time, I made sure I was alone. Pumpkin was roasted, the peppers were blistered, pumpkin seeds toasted, and all the ingredients came together in the end, in a too-small bowl, because I had not adequately considered the spatial dimensions of ‘many little bits of everything all at once’.
This is a comforting salad. The Whole Thing is the best bit, it’s a salad FULL of best bits, all covetable and delicious. Assuming, of course, you adore/are partial to all eleven (or so) ingredients involved. The flavours mingle so festively. Share among many. It disappears much too quickly.
Roasted pumpkin, cinnamon and feta salad
Re-discovered and adapted from here, probably from an old magazine clipping, just like my mother’s somewhere-copy, flaunted each year at Christmas-time.
800 g pumpkin, peeled (OR NOT) and cubed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 red peppers, roasted and sliced (and skins removed)
200-250 g feta cheese, cubed
1 small red onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
*I’m skeptical of this dressing. It makes an exorbitant amount. Make half. I will admit now that I swiftly ignored its instructions, adding ingredients into a jar at whim until it struck its own balance in ever closer approximations.
Heat oven to 200C and toss together pumpkin, cinnamon, garlic and oil on a baking tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
You may now select a bowl. Put all of the edible salad objects in said bowl.
Shake your dressing together – Taste! Adjust! – and drizzle over salad. Encourage mingling.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Lovely.