If you’re still waiting for summer to begin, or in fact, just for temperatures to reach above 18 °C in mid-June, I think you’ll love this Warm Cavolo Nero, Squash & Almond Salad.
This is a dish that will transport you, through tasty, juicy, crisp and caramelised morsels, to a place of true sunshine and happiness. And if you do happen to be basking under a hot sun just now, this salad will make for a luxurious side to your BBQ.
Aren’t the colours gorgeous?
The deliciousness of this warm salad is just one reason why it should be on your menu this week. Here are 8 more:
- it’s a super-easy dish to prepare and cook – only one tray required!
- it’s a low-fat, nutritious and satisfying celebration of simple ingredients;
- it’s a more summery way to enjoy squash (although this clementine miso noodle bowl and spiced chestnut soup are year-round butternut favourites for us);
- cavolo nero (or black/flat kale) is a fantastic source of fibre, vitamins and minerals, including calcium and iron;
- you can enjoy it just as easily for a mid-week dinner, as for a side to your Sunday roast;
- it keeps well in the fridge for a week, meaning you have lots of options for packed lunches;
- or to take on your summer picnic; and
- it brings sunshine to your plate, without much effort at all.
The transformation of tomatoes into a sticky jam brings a wonderfully rich caramelisation to this dish, as well as helping the cooking process along without the need for lots of oil. The spoonful of olive oil that does go into the recipe just helps to bring it all together with a lovely glaze.
And what a platter of jewels this salad becomes once it’s all piled together! The cavolo nero turns such a beautiful colour, a sort of jet-green, slicked and studded with rubies, amber and mellow gold.
You might be surprised to hear that the inspiration for this dish came from a rain and wind-battered field on the Scottish coast (amidst the bellows of a bag pipe contest no less), during a visit north to spend some quality time with Mr B, Mr G and Chunky: owner of the most extravagant tail and an impressive repertoire of looks.
Among the water-drenched chip vans and candy floss stalls were a couple of friendly (and weather-resilient!) ladies from a local farm, selling freshly-picked produce including purple sprouting broccoli, cavolo nero and extraordinarily long stems of rhubarb.
Despite the fact this was the first stop of the day I couldn’t resist filling my bag with these locally-grown goodies – and spending the rest of the afternoon dreaming up ways to cook them with our hosts for dinner that evening.
You’ll know by now how much I enjoy marinating kale for all sorts of super salads, but I wanted to do something different with these beautiful leaves and loved the way they wilted and crisped in this juicy dish.
Now, Misters B and G are no vegans, but they are real foodies and are always excited to try new things. So not only did we have a riotous evening cooking together (having enjoyed a glass or two from the local harbour-side establishments), but we created an oh-so-delicious meal that vanished almost as quickly as it hit the table.
One of the best things about the combination of these ingredients is the rich earthiness of the cavolo nero (the leaves that crisp are just fabulous!) and the kick of chilli, which prevents the end result from being overly sweet; while the almonds and chickpeas bring texture and crunch. All of which transports this salad from the blustery – and beautiful – coast of Dunbar to a sun-dappled Mediterranean piazza.
So here’s to a delicious meal, inspired by friends. What are some of your favourite friend-food memories?
- 1 coquina squash
- 250g baby plum or small vine tomatoes
- 200g cavolo nero
- 1 tin chickpeas (400g / drained weight 240g), rinsed and drained
- 50g whole almonds
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp (heaped) smoked paprika
- 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
- Lots of black pepper
- Heat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6.
- Top and tail the squash, stand upright on a chopping board and slice it in half down the middle. Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh and lay each piece on the board, flesh side down. Cut each half into slices about 1cm thick, slicing horizontally.
- Slice the tomatoes in half, or into quarters if they are larger than baby plum tomatoes.
- Place the squash slices, tomatoes, olive oil, rosemary, smoked paprika and chilli flakes onto the largest roasting tray you have and carefully stir so that it is all coated in the seasoning and oil.
- Place on the top shelf of the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
- During this time, tear the cavolo nero leaves away from the centre stem (discard these) and then into 1 inch square pieces.
- Remove the root end of each garlic clove, but don't peel them.
- Stir the squash and tomatoes and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes.
- Once this time has passed, add the cavolo nero, chickpeas and almonds and stir, aiming to have most of the cavolo nero underneath the squash. Place the garlic cloves on the edge of the tray and return to the oven. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Stir, and return to the oven for a final 5 minutes.
- To serve, squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins, add lots of black pepper and pile everything on to a large serving plate.