Spa Salad with Avocado-Chipotle Dressing

Seeing as I am not a frequenter of destination spas, calling this a ‘spa salad’ may be a bit cheeky. But, from the little I have experienced of the pampered life I think this nutritious, light, yet deceptively filling salad could feature – somewhere between the mango, lobster and microleaves tower and the poached pear with edible flowers.

Spas, especially those from the American Southwest and the Pacific Southeast, specialise in not only making sticking your foot over your ear seem glamourous (if done on a bed of orchid petals)  but elevate holier-than-thou plant foods from hairshirt to haute cuisine. No ranch dressing drizzled iceberg for them, it’s meal salads with protein, herbs and flowers all the way.

After I made my own spa salad I had a look at a list of spa destinations (in case I somehow won the lottery from that one ticket I bought 16 years ago), and found this index of gorgeous-sounding recipes. I think I shall try a few whenever I feel the need for some pampering but without the price tag and the monogrammed white robe. Well, maybe I’ll wear the monogrammed robe.

So, to the ingredients. No spa salad is complete without either skin-feeding avocados or seeds – I give you both; ditto the funky leaves (no declasse iceberg or round leaf allowed). And it is has to have a cellulite-nixing, oil-free dressing. The black beans, chipotle, oregano and cumin are my nod to the bougainvillea-covered spas that dot the sun-bleached canyons and deserts of southwestern North America. One day…

And now to the rather left-field sounding Uchiri Kuri squash. I love, love, love this hard variety of squash, a ‘winter’ squash, that grows year-round and keeps forever (well, two months). It also goes by the names Red Onion squash, Baby Red Hubbard, Orange Hokkaido (although it isn’t an Hokkaido), Japanese squash and Potimarron. Uchiri Kuri squash delivers a fantastic amount of skin-plumping beta-carotene, oodles of filling and cleansing fibre, and decent amounts of Vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, iron and calcium. And it tastes of sweet roasted chestnuts. How great is that? The ones I see at the Earthy market and cafe in Canonmills Edinburgh are imported (I know, I know) but they grow in a variety of warm places in both the northern and southern hemisphere and, because of their thick, protective skin, make good travellers, keeping the nutrients safely locked in. They are just waiting to be pureed, roasted, gratineed, compoted, curried, casseroled and mashed.

This salad would of course be great with its fellow cucurbita culitvars butternut squash and acorn squash, as well as a number of others that are available year-round. Check what’s cooking america for a comprehensive list of hard squashes (they cover squashes that grow elsewhere too). But if you can get a Uchiri Kuri do buy it. Keep it until the spa salad mood strikes, and save some of the cooked saffron-coloured wedges for another recipe or two. If you want to grow your own – they are said to be easy plants, and very pretty – sowvegetables can help. I’ll give you another Uchiri Kuri recipe soon. I hope you love this ball of year-round sunshine as much as I do. My 16 year-old daughter, the discerning Miss R, LOVES it.

Have you been to a destination spa? Which one? What was your favourite thing about going? What was your favourite dish? I shall live vicariously through your comments!

Roasted Uchiri Kuri Squash Spa Salad with Chipotle-Avocado Dressing



Miss R’s Track of the Week: Asian Zen Spa Music Meditation (via a Russian language website)

A mouthful to say and eat, this spa salad is one of those dishes that falls into the non-recipe category of cooking. An assembly job really, as any salad worth the name should be.
 

Many salads live and die by their dressing but this is one of those that is happy enough with some lime juice and olive oil, but the chipotle-avocado dressing lobs it into spa salad territory. The dressing is great on any number of other salads, as well as mixed into hot beans, pasta, or as a tangy moistener for a snazzy wrap. As for the squash, you can use any hard squash that you like, but I am so fond of uchiri kuri squash that others don’t get a look-in in my kitchen. Edible skin, too. Use any extra roasted squash in other recipes or just to nibble alongside some cheese or hummus. I will post a recipe for what I like to do with the leftovers, soon. This recipe is for one big salad – scale up as needed.

*1 uchiri kuri squash (aka red Hokkaido, potimarron, baby red Hubbard, red onion squash), skin washed and dried
*olive oil
*best quality mixed leaves – I used a picked-that-morning pack from Phantassie Farm consisting of sorrel, mizuna, wild rocket, fennel tops, baby pak choi and some other bits I couldn’t identify. Spicy and bitter leaves are a great foil for the sweet, chestnutty flesh of the squash.
*cucumber (as much as you like), cut into batons
*¼ to ½ avocado (amount up to you)
*handful of cooked black beans (or other beans that you like)

*pan-toasted green pumpkin seeds

The Dressing (enough for two salads)

*½ avocado
*3 spring onions/scallions, trimmed
*2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
*juice of ½ lemon
*pinch of dried chipotle chillies OR a shake of chipotle sauce – to taste
*1 tsp dried oregano OR 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
*¼ tsp ground cumin OR ½ tsp cumin seeds, dry-toasted and pulverised
*agave or honey – to taste
*enough water to make a pourable dressing
*salt and pepper – to taste

First of all, the squash. It can be a hard little so-and-so to cut: I read instructions for using a saw! But I don’t think it’s that tricky if you have a sharp, heavy-bladed knife. I slice off both ends and then carefully cut in half after standing it on a flat, cut end. Scoop out the seeds and either save to dry and sow, or discard – they aren’t nice roasting seeds like the butternut squash. Now carefully cut into about 12 wedges in total. To save time I pour a bit of oil in my hands and rub the wedges, reloading with oil as needed. Don’t be shy with the oil as they are quite thirsty and can taste dry without a liberal coating. Pop the wedges in one layer onto a baking tray and roast at 200C/400F for about 35 minutes, or until they are tinged on the flesh or skin. Give one a wee squeeze – if done it will give slightly. But you don’t want browned, overcooked squash. The colour you see in the photos are untouched. That’s what you want. Use about four squash slices per salad.

When the squash is nearly ready make the dressing by roughly chopping the avocado and spring onions then popping everything bar the water into either a blender or the small bowl of a food processor. Blend well, adding just enough warm water to make a pourable dressing. Add in more lemon juice or a touch of white wine vinegar if needs be. 

When the squash has cooled enough layer up the salad and pour over the avocado-chipotle dressing. A great salad for any time of the year. And, as a little ‘bonus’ I’ve included pictures of a candle and incense holder that my talented husband made from a bit of our dropping off old oak tree.  It is very peaceful to look at, and smells great too. Oom.

windfall candle and incense holder made by my Mr A

windfall candle holder


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24 thoughts on “Spa Salad with Avocado-Chipotle Dressing

  1. I feel healthy and cleansed just looking at the pictures – looks great! The only spas I’ve ever been too were traditional Japanese guest houses with hot spring baths. Typically they lay out quite the spread in your room at night, which feature many beautiful little dishes, each featuring a mouthful or two of something local, fresh and beautifully prepared (a.k.a. kaiseki). I didn’t take half enough pictures of those meals, in retrospect, but there are a few here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jfchenier/tags/kaiseki/show/

    • Oh Jean-Francois, those photos are amazing! I’m so jealous – the setting, the dinky dishes, the delectable, different food. Who are the pretty ladies, pray tell? My husband has been to Japan a few times and the beautiful food was a highlight, and a wonder. How lucky to have had your experience. I love the idea of hot spring baths too. Btw, I haven’t contacted you about guidance on making my blog technically better as I have not had a voice for awhile (it comes and goes). I will hold off having a frustrating Skype convo with you until I am a bit more vocally reliable. My husband and daughter are not complaining much but it is a pest. Is it still okay with you?

      • The food is just generally good in Japan – you’ll have to make the trip sometime. The pretty ladies are my sister (who came over for a visit) and Bonnie Lee (my wife). No hurry on the Skype chat. I’m in Singapore and KL for another 2 weeks, and will be back on your side of the planet July 9 (for a mere 2 weeks). Way too much travel these days, and not the fun kind.

  2. I do go to a spa once a week, actually a Russian Turkish Bathhouse. Sounds bad, I know, but their “spa” food is authentic. Borscht, fresh juices, fried fish etc. I really like your approach to a spa salad. Feel like you went in my brain and took exactly what I would want at the spa. Really enjoy your posts and creative recipes.

    • Thank you so much! I apologise if I sounded a bit snide about spa going – I’m only jealous! What you do sounds different to what I have read about and experienced for myself. Yours sounds a proper, wholesome, dare I say ‘old-fashioned’ (in the nicest possible way) approach to spa-ing, rather than the champagne with meals spa experience, or the juice-only approach.

    • That’s so kind of you to say. Funnily enough that wasn’t plated as such, it was just our lunch and I thought ‘That looks pretty. Maybe I should take a photo in case it tastes okay enough to write up.’ Most of the food I deliberately plate up probs looks like it, so maybe I should just wing it some more.

  3. Haven’t been to a spa yet. I feel a little too brown and out of place, hahaha. I do love your salad and the dressing sounds creamy and divine. Everything you make sounds divine and every recipe I’ve made of yours has been delightful! When I get off my Master Cleanse, this is on my list of must makes as I have to “ease” into proteins. Bookmarking right now!

    • Nah, Tahmina, you are too beautiful, nothing to do with colour. They wouldn’t know how to improve you! What is this Master Cleanse? I have heard of it but don’t know the ins and outs – is it juice fast, a product (like lemon and maple syrup), what? Btw, ditch the beans and have the salad with lots of dressing. Love those avocados :D PS I am rubbish at taking compliments, but thank you

      • The Master cleanse is the lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper concoction you drink to clean out your system. I’m doing a 10 day cleanse with a 2 day in and 2 day out (you ease in by eating only raw veggies/fruits and ease out the same way) My first time. It was really hard the first 2 days and now I’m glad I stuck to my guns, it feels really good. Clean from the inside out!

      • Was Beyonce doing this? I didn’t know. I have wanted to try a cleanse for a long time and didn’t know how to go about it. Just plain hydration seemed a bit hard so I settled on this one based on the master cleanse website. I might do this again next year but for a shorter time. It does make you feel better—towards the END!

    • Thanks Emilia. It is nice on lots of things. I’m putting up a quinoa salad soon with it in it, with a few changes. Let me know if you like the dressing, but the key is to blend, taste and adjust how YOU like it.

  4. I’ve never been to a destination spa, but I do love enjoying spa-like foods at home! This salad is beautiful and truly spa-quality. I checked out that index of spa-inspired recipes and I think I’m in love, lol!

  5. I loooove squash and this one looks amazing–I have never tried this variety but will look for it now. And the salad is just pretty. I am such sucker for avocados! I have also never been to a destination spa. I do sometimes order something called ‘the spa plate’ at a nearby cafe though, so maybe that counts a little.

    • It is such a good natured squash and very cheerful to look at. Like a dinky pumpkin. And i think ordering a spa salad (or making one) is a sensible compromise. I wish I had a nearby cafe, never mind one that offers spa plates. We have a post office with seats outside that will do you a fab sandwich and some soup though!

    • Thanks Katrina, and thank you for following. Most new subscribers are too shy to comment right away, so cheers for that :D The dressing is exceedingly versatile so whack it on anything you fancy – even some fish tacos (that was a recent incarnation).

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