After the incredible hot temperatures in the beginning of September, autumn finally settled in my neighborhood, right after the equinox. The light suddenly faded and a sort of airy fog took the place of the bright summer sun. All of a sudden, I noticed there were so many yellow leaves already, maybe because of the contrast with the gray in the sky. Plump pumpkins and merry plums are lazily lying in twig baskets on my balcony, and every two days I go to the farmers’ market to buy fresh grapes and sink into the harmonious tones of fall flooding the stalls.
There is something about fall that makes you more conscious about what’s going on in and around you. For me autumn is about presence and gratitude. I am happy that I can hear the rain falling on the tree leaves, happy that I can taste the burst of autumn flavors, and happy that I can see its spectacle. Be it in the forest or in my gray blocks neighborhood, the fall effect is the same – one of joy, calm, and the feeling that everything is as right it should be.
Cooking seasonally feels like the most natural thing that can occur, especially in autumn, having all this abundance to choose ingredients from. Who needs supplements and who’s afraid of the flu when there are so many nurturing nutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables pulsing with energy at the farmers’ market? Bright yellow, orange, and red colors reflects a high load of antioxidants offering protection against free radical activity. The abundance of red and yellow fruits and vegetables in fall is not accidental. As winter is lacking in fresh foods, fall is the last opportunity for our bodies to store the nutrients necessary for sustaining healthy cell activity. It’s all about carotenoids, vitamin C, betalains, resveratrol, flavonoids and manganese, which abound in fall foods: pumpkins, beet roots, cranberries, sea buckthorn, red peppers, sweet potatoes, grapes, plums, red cabbage, and so many other autumn gifts.
This salad is the picture of my autumn – full of colors, comforting and nurturing. Beluga lentils enrich not only its texture, but also add fiber and folate to the nutritional profile of this salad loaded with fall delights: roasted pumpkin, fresh grapes and beet root.
- For the salad
- ½ small pumpkin, peeled and cut into cubes
- 2 cups cooked beluga lentils
- 1 small beet root, peeled and cut into cubes
- ½ cup red grapes, cut into halves
- 1 handful fresh rocket
- 7-10 mint leaves
- 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp coconut oil
- A pinch sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, crushed
- For the dressing
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp organic raw honey (replace with maple syrup for the vegan version)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- ½ tsp sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 175°C/ 347°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, add the cubed pumpkin and beet, drizzle with coconut oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat evenly.
- Roast for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- While the veggies are roasting, heat one teaspoon coconut oil into a skillet, add two crushed garlic cloves and fry for a minute.
- Add the fresh spinach and cook until all its liquid evaporates.
- Set aside to cool.
- In a small bowl add the dressing ingredients and whisk to obtain a creamy liquid.
- In a large bowl add the cooked lentils, roasted vegetables, grapes, onion and spinach and toss to combine. Add the dressing and rocket and toss one more time.
- Top with toasted hazelnuts and serve.