Beta-carotene is a nutrient found most commonly (although not exclusively) in yellow and orange vegetables, which naturally converts in your body into the antioxidant Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps protect your cells from damage and boosts your immunity, amongst other things. Pumpkins are a great source of beta-carotene, but it is not always easy to know what to do with them.
In this recipe, I tossed pumpkin wedges in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and then roasted them in the oven for 25 minutes until they started to caramelise. A few cloves of garlic easily roasting beside the pumpkin helps to make an interesting Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette dressing. The salad itself has very few ingredients (pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, baby spinach leaves, and feta cheese), but each one brings something important to the dish so I wouldn’t recommend leaving any of the ingredients out.
TIP: When buying your pumpkin, make sure that you get a variety which is good for cooking such as a sugar or kabocha pumpkin (even butternut squash will work). Just be sure you don’t use a jack-o-lantern pumpkin because it’s flesh is not as good for cooking.
ROAST PUMPKIN AND SPINACH SALAD WITH ROASTED GARLIC VINAIGRETTE
(Serves 4 as a side dish)
500g uncooked pumpkin, cut into wedges with the peel on (1-1.5 inches thick) OR cut into chunky cubes with the peel off
100g baby spinach leaves
100g feta cheese, diced
20g pumpkin seeds (I use ready prepared store-bought pumpkin seeds)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of sea salt
3-4 chunky garlic cloves, with the paper-skin still on
6 Tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil
2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
generous pinch of sea salt
- Pre-heat the oven to 450F/230C.
- Remove the seeds and strings from the center of your pumpkin. Cut your pumpkin into either wedges (1-1.5 inches, with the skin on) OR into chunky cubes (without the skin on).
- In an oven-proof dish, toss the pumpkin and 3-4 garlic cloves with 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and a generous pinch of sea salt. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes (toss the vegetables half-way through cooking).
- When the pumpkin and garlic are done cooking, allow the pumpkin to cool.
- Take the garlic and mash it up in a pestle and mortar with some sea salt and a little olive oil to make a paste. Don’t worry if you don’t have a pestle and mortar – you can use a fork to mash the ingredients together.
- In a jar, add the garlic paste and the rest of the dressing ingredients and shake well to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- To arrange the salad: spread the baby spinach leaves on the bottom of the salad dish, place the pumpkin wedges attractively on top of the spinach, add the feta cubes on top, and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- When you are ready to serve, dress the salad (you don’t need to toss it), and allow it to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes