Thursday, October 30, 2014

Curried Acorn Squash Salad with Apples

My passion for helping the kids of St. Jude comes from my family. It's because I never knew my cousin Will; he was born with brain cancer before I was ever on this earth. The only place that gave my aunt and uncle any hope for treatment was St. Jude. Will was a patient there when the childhood cancer survivor rates were lower than they are today. St. Jude  Children's Research Hospital has taken that survival rate from around 4% in 1962 to around 94% in 2014. That is so amazing!

Will's story inspired my mom to get involved with St. Jude, and she inspired me. I've run the St. Jude Marathon five times in her memory, and my team has raised thousands of dollars that goes directly to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital here in Memphis. 

I did plenty of running around last week when I had the pleasure of cooking for 400 guests at the St. Jude Garden Harvest alongside some of my favorite people in the Memphis culinary world: Miles McMath, Rick Farmer, Earnest Dickson, Michael Vetro, Michael Hughes, Craig and Elizabeth Blondis, Felicia Willett, Elizabeth Heiskell, Josh Belechia, and Robert Rushton. It was such an honor to be asked to participate and to work alongside these fine folks. We all had a great time, and we raised a whole lot of money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital so that they can continue doing great work. 

The menu was amazing as you can imagine. I contributed some a BBQ eggplant dish for an appetizer and also did the salad course. I dreamt up this salad from the list of ingredients that we could source locally. Think of it as a deconstructed curry dish that's just right for this time of year. 

Curried Acorn Squash Salad with Apples

2 medium acorn squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon curry powder (recipe follows)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
Simple Raita (recipe follows)
Herbed Dressing (recipe follows)
1 apple (like a Honey Crisp or Pink Lady)
2 cups arugula or other salad greens
1 shallot (thinly sliced)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the stem end off of each acorn squash and scoop out the seeds. You won't need these, so discard or compost them. Slice both acorn squash in half and then into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch slices. In a large bowl, toss slices with the olive oil and then the curry powder, salt, and pepper. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, arrange the squash in a single layer and roast for 20 minutes or until the edges start to caramelize. Remove and allow squash to cool.

Make the Simple Raita and Herbed Dressing according to the recipe before you are ready to serve. Cut the apple into matchsticks and set aside. Place a layer of roasted squash on a large serving platter and top it with the Simple Raita. Add the arugula, shallots, and apples before drizzling the dish with Herbed Dressing. (Serves 6 to 8.)

Curry Powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
The seeds from 4 cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon clove
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon hot chili powder (or to taste)

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and then run them through the spice grinder for a few seconds to break down the cardamom seeds. This mix will keep for up to a year in a sealed container.

Simple Raita

1/2 cup finely diced English cucumber
Kosher salt (to taste)
Juice of 1/2 lime
3/4 cup 2% Greek yogurt

In a medium bowl, mix the cucumber, salt, lime, and yogurt. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.

Herbed Dressing

1 cup mixed fresh herbs (like basil, mint, parsley, cilantro)
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from 1 lime
1 clove garlic

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Using an immersion blender or your food processor, blend the herbs, oil, lime juice, and garlic until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use.

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