Hey, kids, have you ever dreamed about flying on a carpet to far-away lands, where you find yourself gorging on colorful fruits and veggies you’ve never tasted before? Well… dreaming is not all you can do. We have the Internet now! Internet joy comes from finding recipes for wonderful new foods from other places. Internet frustration comes when you go shopping but can’t find all the ingredients!
But don’t let that hold you back. Vinny always says… If you can’t find an ingredient, look for something like it and use that instead. Buying local is not such a bad thing, now, is it?
All this occurred to me as I set out to make a Japanese dish I found on Plates of Art—Kabocha Caesar salad. Sadly, I couldn’t find the two special ingredients, Japanese mustard or kabocha. So I made the salad à la Vinny, using butternut squash (which is readily available at Farm Boy in Ottawa, Canada), and baby arugula, sweet and sharp on the tongue at the same time, and full of omega 3 plus other healthy tidbits.
Of course, Peter (the pumpkin eater) would have chosen something different… perhaps the sweet Jamaican pumpkin. Pumpkin after all is just another type of squash, of the giant variety. This salad is completely flexible, Peter, so go crazy.
Here’s my recipe, in case you all want to try it too. It’s well worth the trouble.
Vinny’s squash salad, with lo-cal Caesar dressing
arugula, about 1 cup for each bowl
2 small Lebanese cucumbers, thinly sliced, about 24 slices (6 per bowl)
Sea salt, 1 teaspoon
Parmesan cheese, shredded, about 1 tablespoon per bowl
Olive oil, 2 teaspoons
Butternut squash, thinly sliced, about 24 pieces that are 1 x 1 x 1/4 inches (6 per bowl) – OR Kabocha if you can find it (a sweet Japanese winter squash) OR Jamaican pumpkin, for Peter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (preferably NOT Chinese unless you don’t like the taste of garlic, in which case just leave it out)
Lo-fat Caesar salad dressing (recipe below)
1. Wash the greens well, spin them dry, and chop them up if the leaves are large.
2. Slice the cucumbers and put 1 teaspoon of salt on them in a small bowl. Allow them to sit for 10 minutes, or until you see some liquid pool in the bowl. Pour off the liquid and rinse well in cool water. Taste, and if the cucumbers are too salty, soak the slices in cool water for another 10 minutes, drain, and chop coarsely.
3. In a hot pan with olive oil on medium heat, add the garlic and squash, and stir fry them. Season with pepper. You will not likely need salt because of all that salt in the cucumbers. Flip the pieces as they brown on the bottom side. When the squash feels tender when poked with a fork, remove them to a bowl.
4. Make a creamy lo-cal Caesar-type dressing, by whisking together these ingredients:
- 1/3 cup plain, thick, non-fat yogurt, drained
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (the juice from one lemon)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1. Put 1 cup of leaves in each salad bowl.
2. Top each bowlful with 1/4 of the cucumber pieces, 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese, and 6 pieces of cooked squash.
3. Divide the dressing among the four bowls.
Serve and enjoy. People can toss their own salad before eating.
Would kids like this recipe? Not sure. It depends how much they are keen to try vegetables. There is tons of flavor in this delicious salad, but if the family isn’t fond of new taste sensations, I’d say leave out the garlic and use Boston lettuce (or baby spinach) instead of the stronger tasting greens. Boston has a mild, tender, buttery leaf that lots of kids like.
Peter, our pumpkin eater, never chucks out the seeds. He roasts them, hulls them, lightly salts them, and sprinkles them on top of salads. Or he pops them in his mouth as an anytime snack. Why, you might ask? Besides their crunchy taste, pumpkin seeds are packed with goodness that is especially valuable for the guys. For all the details about pumpkin seeds, read here.