Friday, 23 January 2015

Pumpkin and beetroot salad with goat cheese

Pumpkin and beetroot salad with goat cheese

I like to create recipes and do it very often - if "create" may sounds an overstatement, let's say that I often cook without following any recipe; and this happens in most cases with fresh foods, mainly vegetables but also fish, that I buy prompted by their freshness and appearance or just by inspiration rather than the idea of making a specific recipe. And this is something I really enjoy, a bit challenging but much satisfying: I love to find good combinations of ingredients, flavors and textures, to choose the best cooking technique, to add spices and herbs, to experiment something new or different, and finally to make a nice presentation. And what a personal great satisfaction when the dish comes out so good that I wish to make it again! But in this cases, it is important to write down the recipe as soon possible, in order to take note of both ingredients (and possibly the exact amount used) and preparation steps. In fact I know from previous experiences that, if I like something I make, I'd better take note soon because it is much likely that the same, or at least a quite similar, good result won't come out again. And this is what I did with this salad, made few days ago - my Instagram followers have already seen the picture - when I was alone for dinner (husband traveling) but wanted anyway make something appetizing, not too complicated (not worth spending too much time in the kitchen for feeding just one person) and with plenty of vegetables (as I can't live without a huge portion of veggies every single day). I had a nice butternut squash, few beetroots and a bunch of baby spinach bought last Friday at the Farmer Market on the Terrace that I wanted to use. 
Pumpkin and beetroot salad with goat cheese - ingredients
I love the combination pumpkin-beetroot, their different types of sweetness lovely complement. I roasted the pumpkin with oil, salt and pepper and a sprinkle of sumac, whose acid flavor well balances the pumpkin sweetness, adding some seeds and pine nuts in the final minutes of cooking. For beetroots I used my favorite cooking method, that is baking in the oven individually wrapped in foil so that all the flavor is maintained (it takes a bit longer than boiling but the result is much more tasty). Added some spinach leaves, pieces of a fresh but firm goat cheese, some more sumac powder and a dressing made combining olive oil with pomegranate molasses, a Middle Eastern syrup made from concentrate pomegranate juice that I discovered here in Dubai and use now very often, sometimes in place of balsamic vinegar (in salad dressing, sprinkled over roasted vegetables or even with labneh or soft goat cheese). It is easily available in all supermarkets here and in all Middle Eastern countries as it very common in their cuisine; in other parts of the world I would check specialty stores, Middle Eastern markets or online. 
The recipe is really simple but very enjoyable; a good idea for eating seasonal vegetables in a different way. It can be tasted as a wholesome lunch with a slice of bread but, in smaller portion and nicely presented, can be also served as a starter in a more-than-one- course meal.
Pumpkin and beetroot salad with goat cheese

Pumpkin and beetroot salad with goat cheese
serves 4 as a starter (2-3 as a main course)
1 medium butternut squash
2 medium fresh beetroots
1 bunch baby spinach (or rocket)
(optional) beetroot greens for garnish
100 g goat cheese (soft ripened type is best), but also feta works well
1 heaped tbsp sumac, plus a bit for garnish
2 to 3 tbsp pine nuts
2 to 3 pumpkin seeds
2 to 3 sunflower seeds
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
pomegranate molasses
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Trim the beetroots stalks (reserving the small and fresh green leaves, if possible). Wash well the beetroot then wrap them individually in aluminum foil and bake for about 1 hour or until tender when pierced with a skewer or a sharp knife(baking time strongly depends on beetroot size and variety). When ready remove from the oven and let rest until you can handle, then unwrap and peel with a small knife until still warm (the skin should come off very easily). Finally cut each into slices or even cubes of 2 to 3 cm.
While beets are baking, peel the squash, remove seeds, cut into even cubes of about 1 - 1,5 cm and place in a bowl, season with salt, pepper and  sumac, add 2 -3 tbsp of olive oil and mix well to coat each piece with the seasoning; spread evenly onto a baking dish (I like to line with parchment paper) and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until the pumpkin is soft;  remove from the oven, sprinkle on top pine nuts and seeds and bake for another 5 to 10 minute or until the pumpkin edges becomes lightly browned and the seeds are toasted.
Prepare the dressing by whisking together 3 - 4 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses and salt and pepper to taste. Clean and wash baby spinach.
When all ingredients are ready (pumpkin and beetroot can lukewarm or room temperature, according to your liking), nicely arrange layers of pumpkin and beetroot scattering pieces of cheese and spinach leaves on each layer; end with pieces of cheese. Garnish with the reserved beetroot leaves. Sprinkle some dressing on top and around the vegetables, add more sumac depending on your liking and serve. 


  1. Dear Francesca,
    First of all, I would like to say thank you for your blog, it’s very interesting and you always inspire me by your ideas! I often cook something from your recipes. I think that it is a very good idea to cook from seasonable vegetables. I will certainly try this salad and will write you. I would like to share a really great free app I've recently discovered with you. It is called Carde at All image content of top social networks is there. It can be useful in communication with your followers. Thank you again and I am looking forward to your feedback!

    1. Dear Iryna, thank you for your lovely comment; I'm glad you like my blog and also take inspiration from my recipes. I'll surely try the app you suggest and let you know.
      Hope to hear from you again soon.