Winter squash deserves a place on the table on so many levels. These hard-skinned vegetables with good keeping qualities cover many varieties: butternut, acorn, carnival, "Sweet Mama" and kabocha, to name a few. Their dark golden or bright orange color is a sign of a veggie bursting with good-for-you antioxidants. They also are sweet but fairly low in calories. When squash doesn't stand alone as a side dish, it lends its flavor and rich texture to soups, salads, main dishes, breads and desserts.
When we tasted the roasted squash, cooled slightly from its stint in the oven, the flavor was so sweet that we re-thought the seasonings for this salad. It didn't need a touch of curry or cinnamon and nutmeg. A bit of salt and a dash of hot sauce accents the sweetness quite nicely. Lemon juice balances the flavors of the salad and adds a fresher flavor than vinegar.
This salad can be eaten chilled but tastes better warm or at room temperature.
WARM ROASTED SQUASH AND BARLEY SALAD
>>8 ounces barley
>>1 tablespoon olive oil
>>3/4 cup chopped onion
>>3/4 cup chopped celery
>>1/2 cup golden raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
>>3 teaspoons kosher salt
>>Pepper to taste
>>1/2 cup olive oil
>>1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
>>1 cup roasted winter squash
>>2 medium baked sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
>>Dash hot sauce
Put the barley in a saucepan, and cover with cold water an inch or so higher than the level of the barley. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and cook until barley is al dente, about 35 to 40 minutes. Drain well.
While barley is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and saute onion and celery until tender-crisp. When barley is cooked, transfer it to a mixing bowl and add the onion and celery. Stir in the raisins. Add 2 teaspoons salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.
Whisk together ½ cup olive oil and ¼ cup fresh lemon juice. Pour over the barley mixture and mix well. Gently fold in roasted squash and sweet potatoes. Add a dash of hot pepper sauce. Taste for seasonings and add remaining teaspoon salt and 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice, if necessary. Serve salad warm or at room temperature. Serves 6.