My relationship with winter is bittersweet. Though I don’t enjoy being cold, I do enjoy wearing winter apparel––jackets and boots being my favorites of the cold weather wear. Though I’m not a fan of muddy trails, late afternoon hikes in the forest, among trees that are bare and branchy, comfort me in a fairy tale kind of way.
That one time each winter when we Portlandians are wrapped in a fresh blanket of snow, is one of the most peaceful times of the year. The pulse of the city stops, there is nowhere I have to be, and there is a sort of silence that accompanies the delicate snowfall that feels warm, loving…that feels like home.
I’m not too fond of reducing my smoothie intake due to colder months, but I do love the cozy cuisine of winter soups, stews, and warm drinks of all kinds. They warm my belly and make my heart smile. Also, despite the cold, I never stop wanting a good salad, and so find ways to craft them using comforting touches and preparations to match the season.
Often at this time of year, I cook hearty grains or soba noodles and toss them with herbs, bitter lettuces, nuts, seeds, and warm dressings. Lentils are also ideal for winter salads, as they are toothsome, earthy and comforting when served warm. This particular dish is one of my favorites to prepare. Its dressing is made with my favorite of all winter produce––the blood orange. The succulent juice is blending with shallot and cider vinegarette for a dressing that is not only mouthwatering, but functional for immune strengthening. Tossed with sugary roasted delicata squash and nutty brown lentils, baby greens, and cruncy hazelnuts, this is healthy comfort food for any chilly night.
1 medium delicata squash, cut through lengthwise, and seeds removed
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed well
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves separated and minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary, needles separated and minced
3 cups water
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon blood orange zest
1/2 teaspoon raw honey
1 medium blood orange, juiced
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls peppery greens such as baby kale or arugula
Cracked black pepper
Coarse Sea Salt
Hazelnuts, toasted and cracked
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat both squash halves with coconut oil. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove from oven and slice into 1/2-inch half moons. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, bring lentils, sea salt, thyme, rosemary, and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and place back in pan, and apply lid to keep the lentils warm.
3. While lentils are simmering, prepare dressing by mixing together shallot, orange zest, honey, blood orange juice, vinegar, and salt. Whisk in olive oil and reserve.
4. In a large bowl, toss together lentils, roasted squash, greens, and dressing until greens wilt slightly. Finish with cracked black pepper, a generous pinch of coarse sea salt, and hazelnuts.