03 January 2011

roasted acorn squash and candied lemon zest salad - meatless monday

Last post I said goodbye to last year, so here's a post to say hello to 2011 (meatless monday style).

I don't really do resolutions for the new year, everyone knows those are things we don't keep up, but I do like to reflect on what I would like the new year to bring. Of the few things I'm concentrating on, being nice to myself is high on the list, and that includes being nice to my body.

To start the year, I'm going on a mini-detox diet. What I mean by "mini-detox" is that I'm not following any crazy or strict routine or trying to keep up a diet I know I'll fail. I'm simply cutting out gluten (yikes!), dairy, and red meat for as long as I can stand it. I'm also trying to cut out caffeine, alcohol, and overdoses of sugar for a while, and ramping up my water consumption, fruit and veggie intake, and personal activity (dare I say exercise? nah, I'm not an exercise kind of gal). I'm excited to be creative in the kitchen with the plan, and hopefully steer clear of anything uber boring and bland.

Though salads are an easy non-meat dish to whip up, I don't love traditional salads, this and this being exceptions (and now this one too). Sometimes, however, something light and refreshing is what I crave for supper and a salad is an easy way to remedy that craving. I threw this recipe together after not having a clue of what I wanted to eat, but I fell in love at first bite with the warm squash on top of crisp romaine lettuce with surprise bits of sweet lemon and crunchy almonds. I happen to think it's a great salad to start the year and to start my mini-detox, and one I think I'll be coming back to again and again. Happy meatless monday, everyone!

p.s. how cute and girly are the squash slices? I just love them!

roasted acorn squash and candied lemon zest salad

notes: serve salad with warm squash for best results. also, the lemon zest is best the longer it sits mixed with the sugar, so do ahead if possible. finally, i find the peel of the squash to be too bitter for my taste, but love the way it looks. You can easily remove peel for guests after the squash is cooled slightly, or if you prefer to leave it on for color, simply provide a knife to help guests remove peel on their own.

1 acorn squash
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 lemon, zested
1 tsp sugar
1/4 c sliced almonds
4 large basil leaves, julienned
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice top and bottom of acorn squash, to remove stem and tip end of squash. Halve squash lengthwise. Remove seeds and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices on heavy duty baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven 40-45 minutes until lightly browned, turning once halfway through cooking. Let cool slightly before serving.

Meanwhile, toast almonds in a saute pan over medium heat until lightly browned. Stir together lemon zest and sugar and let sit, the longer the better.

On serving platter, lay down chopped lettuce. Top with squash slices and sprinkle with lemon zest, toasted almonds, and basil. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and squeeze lemon juice all over.

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