Bring on the layers when it’s cold outside. And before you reach for your fleece or parka, let’s be perfectly clear: We’re talking about salads. That’s right, salads have a place in the fall and winter, and when the brisk seasons invite layering hefty, nourishing ingredients into our meals, this principle also applies to salads. They can handle it.
This vibrant salad is a perfect example. It’s layered with toothsome nutty black rice, juicy-crisp radicchio leaves, and spice-roasted delicata squash rings. Each ingredient brings flavor, texture and nutrients to the salad party, and when composed together in a serving bowl and drizzled with a thick balsamic vinaigrette, they produce a unified and highly decorative salad that will please and wow everyone at the dinner and holiday table.
Delicata squash is a winter squash that is often bypassed for the ubiquitous butternut squash. Delicata is a small oblong squash with green and yellow striated skin that is edible, so there is no need to peel it. It cooks quickly, and roasting is an easy method that amplifies its mildly sweet and creamy flavor. The squash can be halved lengthwise and roasted, or better yet, sliced into thin rings, which resemble decorative flower shapes.
If you need any further encouragement to make this salad, note that it can be easily prepped ahead of serving, since the rice and squash rings should be cooked and cooled to room temperature. The final assembly takes minutes, which is a cook’s gift during the busy holiday season.
Delicata, radicchio and black rice salad
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes, plus rice cooking and cooling time
Yield: Serves 4
1 cup black rice, rinsed
1 large delicata squash, scrubbed clean
1 to 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 large head radicchio, cored, leaves torn into shards
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley leaves
2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds (or pomegranate arils)
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
Cook the rice until tender, according to package instructions. Season to taste with salt and set aside to cool to lukewarm or room temperature.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the squash crosswise in 1/3-inch-thick slices and scoop out the seeds. Place the rings in a large bowl. Add the oil, 1 tsp. salt, the cumin, paprika and black pepper and toss to coat. Arrange the squash rings on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Transfer to the oven and roast until golden brown in spots and tender, about 25 minutes, flipping once. Remove from the oven and lightly brush with the dressing. Cool to lukewarm or room temperature.
Spread the radicchio in a wide shallow serving bowl. Stir the scallions into the rice and then spoon the rice over and around the radicchio. Arrange the delicata rings around the salad, tucking some of the rings under the radicchio leaves. Sprinkle the parsley and pumpkin seeds (or pomegranate arils) over the salad. Drizzle with the remaining dressing.
• This recipe is from Lynda Balslev, a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer. She can be found at TasteFoodBlog.com.