Warm Spinach and Butternut Squash Salad

I took an eye-opening public class at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC a few weeks ago on preparing raw foods.  The class was hosted by the famed Renée Loux and everything was incredible.  Not only was it delicious, but I felt so clean and light, yet satisfied, afterwards.  There must be something to the theory that consuming living enzymes (that is the enzymes found in food not heated beyond 110 degrees Fahrenheit) can be more effective in supplying our bodies with energy and health.  I proceeded , of course, to buy the Renée’s  book, “Living Cuisine”, and have been looking to recreate that happy experience in as many ways as possible here at home.

As much as I loved the raw experience, I think it would be difficult to eat that way all the time (at least at this point in my life), especially in a Northeast winter while also cooking for a guy.  I do however, believe that I can incorporate raw and lightly steamed vegetables into the diet much more than I have considered in the past.  This meal is an example of an integrated approach to raw foods.

Serves 4-6

For the salad:

6 scallions, sliced (white and green parts)

1 yellow or red bell pepper, medium dice

1 cup curly parsley, chopped (not too fine)

4-5 oz baby spinach

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

1 head collard greens (preferred), Tuscan kale or chard, stems discarded and leaves cut into 1-inch thick slices

1 handful raw pecans, broken into pieces

For the dressing:

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg)

1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar

juice of 1 lemon (about 2-3 tablespoons)

2 teaspoons grade B maple syrup

What to do:

Whisk dressing ingredients vigorously in a small bowl until somewhat emulsified.

Place the scallions, bell pepper, parsley and spinach in a large bowl (the biggest one you’ve got).

In a medium-sized pot (preferably one that comes with a steamer basket), fill halfway with water and add a pinch of salt.  Bring to a gentle boil and add the squash.

After about 5 minutes, when the squash is about halfway cooked, add the kale or collards to the steamer basket on top of the simmering squash and allow to steam for about 3 minutes*, until the greens are lightly softened.  Remove steamer, check that the squash is done and strain together.

Give the dressing another whisk.  Add warm vegetables, pecans and dressing to the bowl with the raw vegetables.  Gently toss together.  The spinach should soften and the dressing should become fragrant.  Serve immediately while still warm.  (I served it with some leftover garlicky broccoli rabe and it was an awesome complement to this salad!)

(*If you do not have a fitted steamer basket, blanch the kale/collards with the squash when it’s about a minute away from being fork-tender.  Strain together.)

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