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!
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Asian Zen Spa Music Meditation (via a Russian language website)
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.
*pan-toasted green pumpkin seeds
The Dressing (enough for two salads)
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.