Spinach, Roasted Butternut Squash, Feta, & Toasted Walnut Salad with a Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

I’ve been dying to try anything with Meyer Lemons for over a year now.  They only show up around here is in January – February, so when I saw a bag at Wegman’s the other day, I knew the time had come.  Meyer Lemons are kind of a cross between a clementine and a lemon (my friend Klob calls them “lemontines”), so they’re a little lighter and sweeter than traditional lemons.  The vinaigrette plays well against the roasted butternut squash, the feta adds a little saltiness, and the toasted walnuts add a little heartiness and crunch.  The spinach pulls this all together for a super satisfying, really easy salad.

– 1 9 oz. bag of spinach
– 1/4 – 1/2 Roasted Butternut Squash
– 1/4 C. crumbled Feta
– 1/4 C. toasted walnuts
– 2 Meyer Lemons, zested and juiced
– 1 tbsp. honey
– 1/2 – 3/4 C. EVOO (start with 1/2, then add more to taste)
– Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Roast the butternut squash. Basically, turn the oven to 400, throw in the squash for maybe 15 minutes, then remove to cut off the bottom and slice it in half easily.  Scoop out the seeds, rub a little olive oil on both sides, then place the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet for 30 – 45 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.  Remove from the oven, peel off the skin, and cut as needed. I has some leftover from the other night’s chicken, kale, roasted butternut squash, and black bean enchiladas, so I just used that.

2. Add the spinach leaves to a large bowl, then and add a little kosher salt or Herbamare (lettuce is a vegetable, and should be dressed like one). Stir to combine.

3. In a small pan, toast walnuts over medium-high heat.  This should take about 5 minutes – just watch the pan closely, and shake it around a lot to flip the walnuts evenly.  You’ll see (and smell) when the walnuts are toasted – just be careful not to burn them!

4. Add toasted walnuts, cubed butternut squash, and crumbled feta.  Mix gently to combine.

5. In a smaller mason jar (or similar), combine the ingredients for the Meyer Lemon vinaigrette. Put a lid on the jar, shake well to combine, then season to taste if necessary.

6. Pour about half the dressing over the salad, mix gently to coat. Add more dressing if you like, or refrigerate for up to 3-4 more days.  Yummo.

Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce-Marinated Tofu or Chicken

Peanut Sauce marinated chicken and tofu summer rolls, yummo.

One of my very favorite things to eat is anything in a “summer roll” – a very thin rice paper that you soak briefly in hot water to make it pliable, and then quickly wrap any fillings in it like a little asian burrito. When I lived in Colorado, there was this amazing asian restaurant that would serve this tofu summer roll with this incredible peanut dipping sauce. I tried a bunch of recipes to duplicate this sauce, but ultimately landed on one you can just buy in the store. It’s delicious, and for someone who has a real aversion to anything spicy, but is marrying someone who would eat spice every day, it has enough heat to create a solid middle ground for both of us. Working with rice paper is pretty fun once you get the hang of it – the key is to work quickly, and not overstuff it, since the paper is really thin (ummm…because it’s made of rice grains. You get the picture). I marinate both tofu and chicken in the peanut sauce, since some people still think “protein” only means “meat”.  As a side note, it’s really important to get organic tofu and check that it’s a brand that contains no GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), as soy GMOs are especially bad for you.

– 1 package Nasoya Extra-firm tofu, drained (I take the tofu block out of the package, put it on ultra-absorbent paper towels – I love Viva Paper Towels, and put it in between two heavier plates to get as much water out of it. This takes about an hour and a couple changes of paper towels. I also hear there’s such a thing as a tofu press, which must be a revelation.)
– Bean sprouts
– 1 english cucumber, seeded (if any) and julienned
– chicken tenders or chicken breast strips
– “bean thread” noodles
– rice paper wraps
House of Tsang Peanut Sauce, Bangkok Padang (I found this at Wegman’s)
– Mint, basil (either or, and these are also optional, but you should really try them the first time around)
– julienned carrots (optional)

1. After tofu is drained, cut into 1/4 in. strips and cover with Peanut Sauce, marinate for 2 hours to overnight. These slices also make an amazing snack. 
     –As a side note, my favorite story about vegans and tofu.  When I lived in Boulder, there was a “local interest” story all over the news about a vegan who wanted to personalize her license plate by letting people know about her love of all things soy.  The Colorado DMV wouldn’t approve her suggested license plate because they were concerned “ILUVTOFU” could have a more suggestive translation than, you know, “I luv tofu”.  

peanut-marinated chicken done “convection oven style”
2. Marinate the chicken strips in the peanut sauce as well. When ready to cook, line a roasting pan with aluminum foil, and put a cooling rack over it. Place the marinated chicken strips on the cooling rack and cook in the oven under the broiler for 3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness.  I love this little roasting pan/cooling rack technique of cooking chicken, since it basically creates a convection oven type of environment, and covers both sides of the meat way better than something lying flat against a cooking tray.

3. Cook bean thread noodles according to package – this should take approx. 2 minutes in total once the water is boiling.

3. Arrange your little “assembly station”.  You want to have a wide, flat bowl full of hot water, a plate for assembly of the summer rolls, your cooked bean thread noodles, the marinated tofu, the marinated, cooked chicken, the basil/mint, bean sprouts, and julienned cucumber (and carrots, if you’re doing that).

4. Working quickly, dip rice paper in hot water until soft and pliable (approx. 30 seconds). It will become translucent when ready to use. Put rice paper onto a plate and add noodles, tofu or chicken, bean sprouts, basil, mint, cucumber.

Peanut tofu summer roll

Peanut chicken summer roll
5. Starting from the bottom, roll up like a burrito.Be careful not to overstuff the rice paper. This took me a couple of tries to get the hang of it, but they turn out so well once you do!  Arrange summer rolls on a plate, making sure they don’t touch (they will stick together).

6. Serve with a side of peanut dipping sauce and a delicious salad.