One of my favourite things is opening my cupboards to make a meal with nothing at all in mind. I pull things out almost at random until I have some sort of epiphany.
I love salads. I love making them. I love eating them. April is passionate about them. My go-to salad rules: greens, something sweet, something crunchy and some kind of cheese. I mostly eat sheep and goat’s cheeses, so this puts a certain spin on my salads. Tonight’s was a winner.
Rosemary Butternut and Roasted Chickpea Autumn Salad
Yes, it’s autumn in South Africa. While I haven’t seen too many turning leaves, the weather has taken on a certain chill, and while it often reaches the twenties by mid-afternoon, it’s not uncommon to see locals dressed in woollen hats and parkas morning and evening.
It started with the chickpeas. I had a can in the cupboard, but I didn’t want to make a raw salad. I wanted something warm, hearty. Something delicious but crisp and light at the same time.
I looked online to see if people roast chickpeas. They do. Then I looked on the kitchen counter and saw the two butternuts and the sweet potato that Josh had left for me. The sweet potatoes here are white. Or rather, they are sweet potatoes, not the orange-fleshed yams that masquerade as sweet potatoes in Montreal. Roast yams and butternut with crunchy spiced chickpeas and… I looked in the fridge. It would have to be Manchego cheese.
1 can chickpeas
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp olive oil
Coarse sea salt
1 butternut squash, cut in wedges
4 twigs fresh rosemary
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut in wedges the same size as the butternut
Manchego cheese: shaved
Mixed greens (I used a mix containing rocket and coriander among various lettuces. Yum!)
I started off with the oven at 180’C (approx. 350’F). In a roasting pan I tossed about 2 tbsp olive oil with the wedged veggies and some coarse salt. Then I tossed in the sprigs of rosemary, jiggled them around so they were also coated in oil, and threw the pan in the oven. Next I rinsed and drained the chickpeas and tossed them out onto a baking sheet. After coating them in olive oil, I sprinkled them with ground cumin and coriander and salt and popped that into the oven too.
The cheese I then shaved. I recently discovered that the fourth side on the box grater — the one with the single line — is for shaving cheese for salads or pasta or what-have-you. Not only does it look fancy, but it tastes great! That it took almost thirty years for me to discover the use of that side of the grater was a surprise to me too.
I can’t tell you the duration of the roasting. It was a glass and a half of wine, about four library books with April and an attempted nap with Charlie’s worth. The chickpeas I checked on fairly regularly (especially when it looked like there was smoke coming from the oven). You’ll know they’re ready when they’re darkening and crisping up. The root veggies I like to cook until caramelized, so I waited until that beautiful browning started to creep inward from the edges before pulling the pan out and leaving it to cool down.
I recommend that you dress and toss your greens before adding the butternut. So in a large salad bowl, combine your greens, the shaved manchego cheese and the cool and crispy chickpeas. Add salt and pepper to taste, a few glugs of olive oil, a dash of vinegar (I used apple cider) and toss. Last but not least, throw on the still-warm autumn veggies.
I accompanied my dinner with another glass of an extremely local Sauvignon Blanc from the Cape Point Vineyard, which is just across the valley from Fish Hoek in the beautiful Noordhoek.