Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Winter Squash, Lentil and Arugula Salad

Before I get into this recipe, let me just say that I have serious issues with my weight. I tend to eat healthy (Greek yogurt with honey and tea for breakfast, salad for lunch, healthy grains and veggies for dinner), but I certainly have moments where I say to hell with it and make a huge pile of nachos for my husband and I to stuff our faces with while watching football. And don’t even get me started on my love for French fries and pizza. It will never die. Ever. I even had a dream one night that I was in the frozen food aisle at a grocery store and I was looking at the frozen pizza section and there was a big “New!” sticker on one of the shelves. When I looked in that direction, I noticed that a new pizza was available that had FRENCH FRIES on it! In my dream the heavens parted to beam down that white glow and the angels were singing. I swear this dream happened. I can’t make up shit like that. I think I woke myself up laughing that morning. And with a serious craving for both pizza and French fries.

I did gymnastics for 18 years of my life and always had people focused on my weight. Until I was 16, I had a boy body, with a full-on six pack and tight little butt to boot.

Oh, how I wish my butt was still tight. But then I went through puberty and my thighs swallowed everything in sight. Ever since then I’ve struggled with my body image and finding an appropriate weight that makes me feel comfortable. And after practicing gymnastics for 18 years, 36-hours a week, I despise exercising. I just feel like I’m still doing it for someone else and resent stair masters with a passion. Not to mention that my knees have barely any cartilage in them anymore and they crunch when I walk and all my 500 old injuries come back to haunt me when I try to exercise. I wish I was exaggerating when I said that I have panic attacks when I try to go to bikram yoga, because I’m so worried about being judged, which is completely against everything that yoga is about. So, here I am at 32, spending as much time worrying about my weight as a teenage boy thinks about sex. And when I’m feeling particularly defensive I scream to my husband that my BMI is still within a “normal” range. And really, he doesn’t even know what a BMI is, and probably thinks that it has something to do with breast size.

I’ve been thinking about what changes I could make to my diet that might help me shed a few pounds and feel a little bit better about myself. The thing I keep coming back to is to cut down on the bread consumption. It’s always there at dinner, with a little bit of olive oil and crushed red pepper and sherry vinegar for dipping. And it needs to stop. I made this salad last night without bread and it was fulfilling enough to enjoy all on its own. I recently discovered the combination of cumin and smoked pepper on winter squash and my life will never be the same.

Winter Squash, Lentil and Arugula Salad

Serves 4
Total time: 45 minutes, largely unattended

Recipe based loosely off of this one from Epicurious

• 3/4 cup Black Beluga Lentils
• 6 cups 1-inch pieces peeled seeded winter squash (I used 2 small Delicata, but I’m sure Kabocha, Butternut or even sweet potato would work fine)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 4 cups baby arugula
• 1 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
• 1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
• 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• Salt and pepper

Put lentils in cold water and soak for 10 minutes. Then boil lentils in salted water for 30 minutes and drain.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss squash with olive oil, cumin, smoked paprika and salt. Put on baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes (stir at least once).

Make vinaigrette with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, sherry vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Divide arugula into four bowls. Top with roasted squash, sprinkle with lentils, goat cheese and mint. Dress each salad with vinaigrette and serve.