One of the things I miss the most during the winter is big, colorful salads (that, and daylight). I love take the fresh summer offerings - green leaves, crunchy vegetable, sweet soft fruit of some kind - and throwing them all together with some oil and lemon juice and calling that my dinner. Winter vegetables have their own strengths but I do miss my all-in-one meals from the summertime.
One winter vegetable strength is the ease with which you can roast many of them and draw out a richer, often sweeter flavor. This works best with squashes - butternut, acorn, or plan old pumpkin - and whenever there's one on hand I'm very tempted to stick it in the oven and figure out what to do once it's done. This time around, I happened to have jerusalem artichoke on hand as well, and so I began thinking of ways of using the two together.
I had never made anything with jerusalem artichoke before, so felt I had to do a bit of research in order to get the best of them. The name of the artichoke, it turns out, is a funny thing - it's not really an artichoke (it's a tuber, like a potato), and it has no connection to jerusalem (it's a mis-pronunciation of the Italian word for sunflower, girasole). Unlike some other tubers, the artichoke can be eaten raw as well as roasted or boiled. Also curious about the artichoke is a fact that most sites featuring information about the vegetable throw up: it's high in a carbohydrate called inulin, which is linked with excessive flatulence in some people. Not a topic for a friendly foodblog, perhaps, but considering how often that fact is brought up in relation to the artichokes, I thought it only fair to warn all and sundry about the dangerous grounds on which I and my bag full of artichokes were standing.
Despite these gastric dangers, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to make a winter salad out of my squash, aritichokes, and any other bits laying around that needed eating (in this case, thyme, pine nuts, rocket and bacon, and cous cous to bulk it all out, though quinoa would work just as well). The squash and artichokes were roasted together with olive oil, a generous handful of thyme and a few cloves of garlic, and the bacon set to grill on top of it when the vegetables were nearly done. Roasted pine nuts in the cous cous, dress it all with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and you have yourselves a winter salad.
And how was it? Very, very good, thank you - just the thing to scratch that salad itch during the winter. It felt healthy, and combined a bit of sweet and salty with a variety of textures.
Ah yes, and how were the artichokes? Nutty, crunchy, and still nicely crisp even after a bit of roasting. My first foray into the jerusalem artichoke world was a good one.
Yes, but, the the inulin, I hear you ask. What about the famed effects of the inulin? Well...this is a mature blog and I'm nothing but a dignified woman, so I shan't be discussing that. I will admit that one of the two of us in the A&N household was susceptible to the inulin's effect, but I shan't reveal which of the two of us it was. Who says the mystery from romance is dead.
A Winter Salad of Squash and Jerusalem Artichokes (an approximate recipe)
serves 4 as a salad main
- 1 medium butternut squash (although other squashes would be fine as long as they're big enough)
- 1 lb of jerusalem artichokes
- bunch of thyme
- 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- olive oil
- 300g cous cous
- 300g hot water
- about 30g of pine nuts
- a couple of handfuls of small salad leaves, such as rocket
- 1 packet of streaky bacon, about 250g
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / 375 F.
- Peel the squash and cut into 1 inch cubes.
- Clean the artichokes and cut into chunks that are about 1 1/2 times the size of the squash cubes.
- Spread the squash and artichokes out on an oven tray or oven-proof dish. Add in the thyme and chopped garlic, and drizzle with olive oil. Toss all together until roughly mixed.
- Set to cook in the oven for about 20 minutes.
- If you have a rack that sets on top of the roasting tray, lay the bacon strips on top of the rack and then place on top of the roasting vegetables. Otherwise, remove the vegetables from the oven and lay the bacon strips on top.
- Cook for another 15 minutes or until the bacon is nicely crispy.
- Meanwhile, prepare the cous cous by boiling the water and placing the cous cous in a large bowl. When boiled, pour the water onto the cous cous, stir lightly with a fork, and cover with a plate to let the cous cous steam for a few minutes.
- Set a small frying pan on medium heat, and lightly toast the pine nuts until they're just slightly brown.
- After about 3 minutes, toss the cous cous with a fork and add in the salad greens, pine nuts, olive oil and vinegar enough to lightly dress and flavor everything, and some salt and pepper.
- When the vegetables and bacon are done, remove the thyme stalks from the tray and add in the vegetables and pan juices to the cous cous.
- Cut the bacon up into bite-sized pieces, and add that to the salad mixture.
- Toss all together, and adjust for flavor.