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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Vegan Pistachio-Coconut Ice Cream (Gelato Vegano di Pistacchio e Cocco)

This is a recipe I devised to satisfy a certain family member’s ice cream addiction without having to experience feelings of guilt for watching him eat such artery-clogging, acidifying food… Thus, while it requires full-fat coconut milk (light coconut milk will become icy when frozen), at least the fat is plant-based and is argued to have many metabolic benefits, unlike milk fat.  Also, the sweetness is derived from the coconut milk, banana and agave, not cane sugar.

I wish I had an ice cream maker to try using for this recipe, but after some trial-and-error I got it to work sans the appliance.  By using not only “whole” coconut milk,  throwing in a banana gave extra natural sweetening power, along with preventing the “ice cream” from becoming too hard in the freezer.

While this vegan version of ice cream is much better for you than the traditional cream version, I would still eat this as an occasional treat.  Enjoy!

Vegan Pistachio and Coconut "Ice Cream" - The Clean Gourmet


1 can coconut milk

1 very ripe banana (the browner, the better)

1/2 cup plus 3 Tbsp raw, shelled pistachios

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 cup honey, light maple syrup, or agave

2 tablespoons chia seeds (optional)

What to do:

Blend the coconut milk, banana, 1/2 cup of the pistachios, vanilla, agave, and salt in a blender for about 1 minute, or until there are no pistachio chunks remaining.

Vegan Pistachio and Coconut "Ice Cream" - The Clean Gourmet

Vegan Pistachio and Coconut "Ice Cream" - The Clean Gourmet

Pour in freezer-safe container or bowl and fold in the 3 Tbsp of pistachios and the chia seeds (if using).

Vegan Pistachio and Coconut "Ice Cream" - The Clean Gourmet

Cover and place in freezer for 4-6 hours before serving.  If possible, stir once or twice to “churn” during the freezing process.  If you freeze longer than 6 hours, remove from freezer about 20 minutes before serving and stir well.

Vegan Pistachio and Coconut "Ice Cream" - The Clean Gourmet

Gelato Vegano di Pistacchio e Cocco:


1 lattina di latte di cocco intero

1 banana, molto matura (più marrone, meglio è)

1/2 tazza, più 3 cucchiai di pistacchi crudi e sbucciati

1 1/2 cucchiaini d’estratto di vaniglia

1/2 cucchiaino di sale fino di mare

75 ml di sciroppo d’agave o di sciroppo d’acero

2 cucchiai di semi di cia (facoltativo)

Come Fare:

Frullate il latte di cocco, la banana, la metà tazza di pistacchi, la vaniglia, lo sciroppo d’agave e il sale in un frullatore per circa un minuto, o finché non ci siano più pezzi di pistacchio rimasti.

Versate in un contenitore adatto per il freezer e unire i pistacchi interi rimasti e i semi di cia (se ne volete).

Coprite e mettete in freezer per 4-6 ore prima di servire.  Se possibile, agitate una o due volte mentre si congela.  Se lo lasciate in freezer per più di 6 ore, toglietelo dal freezer circa 20 minuti prima di servire e agitate.


Gingered Fennel, Pea and Apple Slaw (Insalata di Finocchio, Piselli e Mela allo Zenzero)

I’m trying to incorporate more raw vegetables into my diet, as well as learn to use sumac, a lemony spice that is common in Persian cooking.  I came up with a bright and refreshing slaw that utilizes some seasonal fall produce: apples and fennel.

While it’s best to let the dressing sit so the ginger and lemon flavors develop, the slaw is best served immediately while the vegetables are brightly colored and crisp.

A last-minute way to thaw the peas is to put them in a strainer and run warm water over them for about 1-2 minutes.

For the salad:

1 head fennel, halved, cut into thirds and thinly sliced

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 small apple, quartered and thinly sliced

For the dressing:

1/4-inch piece peeled ginger, grated

2 teaspoons lemon oil or EVOO with zest of one lemon

4 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sumac

salt and pepper, to taste

What to do:

Whisk dressing ingredients together in a bowl and let rest for about an hour.  Toss with salad and serve immediately.

Gingered Fennel and Apple Slaw - The Clean Gourmet

Insalata di Finocchio, Piselli e Mela allo Zenzero:

Per l’insalata:

1 finocchio, dimezzato e tagliato in terzi e a fette sottili

1 tazza di piselli scongelati

1 mela piccola, tagliata in quarti e a fette sottili

Per il condimento:

un pezzo (circa 2-3 cm) di zenzero fresco, pelato e grattugiato

2 cucchiaini d’olio al limone oppure di olio extravergine d’oliva con la scorza di un limone

1 cucchiaio d’aceto di vino rosso

1 cucchiaino di sommacco

sale e pepe a tuo piacimento

Cosa fare:

Frustate in una scodella le ingredienti per il condimento e lasciare riposare per circa un’ora.  Unite con l’insalata e servitela subito.