It’s Fall, Y’all
Being in the mid-atlantic region, fall can sometimes feel like a tease. Like I’ve missed it. I grew up in New England, and I loved the impossibly blue skies, the vibrant orange and red leaves, and the cool temperatures. Sometimes, in Baltimore, we go from tank tops to sweaters in a week. The nice fall weather gets skipped over.
Lately, however, it’s been cool in the mornings and evenings, and warm in the afternoons. I’ll take it. As long as I can feel a chill and see some leaf color, I’m happy. Although I think I will wait until November before I go apple picking so that I can have more of a guarantee of cool weather.
I dreamed up this salad (although the combo of butternut squash and lentils is not original) and I envisioned it with hazelnuts and goat cheese. Delicious, right? But then I just kept going.
We have some beautiful nasturtium that’s absolutely thriving. Did you know you can eat the leaves, in addition to the flowers? They are spicy, with a similar flavor to arugula. I decided to chiffonade them and mix them in with the salad. If you don’t have nasturtium leaves, you can sub arugula or spinach.
I couldn’t stop there, though. We planned to have this for dinner, and I wanted to make it even more hearty. So I cooked some turkey bacon to go on top. And it put the salad over the top. My youngest came inside, hungry, and smelled the bacon. “Where is it?” she asked. I pointed to the salad, which I had just finished photographing. I served her up a ramekin of it and she dug in. “This is good,” she said, with a satisfied sigh.
At dinner, my oldest served herself seconds, and my husband gobbled it up, taking the rest for lunch the next day. I love any type of salad, but I especially love those that are a meal in itself. The kind that you don’t have to eat a sandwich alongside it. Each bite is interesting and different. The flavors of this particular salad are salty, earthy, spicy, and sweet.
I can’t wait to make this salad again and again. I think my nasturtium will hold out for another month or so. When it’s gone, I will continue to make this salad through the winter with kale or collards from my winter garden.
French Green Lentils
Lentils, in general, are a good source of protein and fiber. They are also high in polyphenols, which help prevent disease, as well as other important nutrients. They are so versatile, showing up in all different cuisines and preparation methods.
I like to use French lentils in this salad because they hold their shape after cooking. You can use another type, if you like, just be aware that the final presentation of the salad will look different.
Some people find lentils hard to digest. I find it helpful to soak the lentils ahead of time with some apple cider vinegar. Then, I rinse and cook them. This reduces the specific type of carbohydrate in lentils, called galactans, making them easier to digest.
Butternut squash is a healthy source of carbohydrates. It also has plant-based vitamin A, but the vitamin A we get from plants is not readily used by the body. The body has to convert it. If we are in perfect health (which none of us are) the body can do this. But a better way to get vitamin A is to include cheese, eggs, and meat, especially liver, in the diet. More information about how our bodies use different forms of vitamin A can be found at this blog post.
I hope you give this salad a try! See you next time,
Other Fall Favorites
- Fall Frisee Salad: This is a bright and crunchy salad with green apple, blue cheese, and walnuts. It’s bursting with flavor and is sure to satisfy.
- Overnight Apple Butter: Easy to make, and goes great with toast, pancakes, pork chops, and more.
- Sweet Potato Pancakes: This was a Saturday morning tradition for the longest time (only to be shared now with waffles). These sweet potato pancakes are fluffy and flavorful, bursting with autumn spices.
French Green Lentil and Butternut Squash Salad with Goat Cheese
- 1 cup French green lentils soaked
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar divided
- 2 small butternut squash, or 1 medium 1.5 lbs, resulting in 2 cups cooked squash
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 8 oz. turkey bacon
- 1-2 cups packed nasturtium leaves, washed and dried may sub arugula or spinach
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts toasted
- 2.5 oz. goat cheese
- 1/2 cup canned full fat coconut milk
- 2 tbsp raw honey
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp sea salt or Real Salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- black pepper to taste
- optional nasturtium flowers to garnish
- Soak lentils in filtered water with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar for at least eight hours. Rinse, then cook with 3 cups of filtered water and a large pinch of salt. Bring water to a boil, reduce to medium, and simmer until all water has evaporated, about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel, seed, and dice the butternut squash into half inch pieces. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and large pinch of salt. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
- While the lentils and squash cook, prepare your bacon and hazelnuts. Lay out the turkey bacon on a pan and cook it for 10-15 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees. On another pan, toast the hazelnuts in the oven for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Place the warm hazelnuts in a clean dish towel. Gently rub the towel around the hazelnuts to try and remove the skins. They won't all come off; that's ok.
- While the salad ingredients cook, make the dressing. Whisk the coconut milk, remaining 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, honey, mustard, spices, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Set aside. Roll up the nasturtium leaves (or spinach) and thinly slice it.
- After the salad ingredients have finished cooking and have cooled slightly, it's time to assemble them. In a large bowl, combine the lentils, butternut squash, half of the bacon, half of the hazelnuts, and nasturtium leaves. Pour dressing over top and gently toss to combine. Spread salad on large tray (or you may leave it in the bowl). Garnish with remaining hazelnuts, bacon, goat cheese, and nasturtium flowers (if using).