There’s just something really lovable about the fall. Ask our founder, Nina, and she’ll say, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” We couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to salad making. Indeed, there’s no better way to enjoy fall’s colorful and nutritious bounty than with a hearty harvest salad – and there are loads of layers from which you can choose. From winter squash and apples to dried fruits and nuts, the rich flavors of autumn are unmatched.
Now, the whole idea of a harvest salad itself is nothing new, but the simple act of combining all your favorite autumn flavors with a good drizzle of your favorite homemade dressing can produce a bowl that’s uniquely yours. That’s exactly what Nina did in creating what’s now our “Rich and Hearty Harvest Salad Bowl” recipe. An unbelievably tasty and downright nutritious bowl, it’s the perfect addition to your next seasonal gathering, potluck party or Sunday dinner.
THE BALANCING ACT
Hardly any harvest salad bowls are built without winter squash, especially varieties like acorn, butternut and delicata squash. Here, That Salad Lady chose to include pumpkin, by far one of the most beloved symbols of autumn. Typically, when most people think of pumpkin, spice flavored products, decadent pies and Halloween décor generally come to mind, not necessarily salads. But pumpkin actually has a lot of overlooked potential in the salad making department.
By itself, pumpkin is quite the powerful functional food. It’s chock-full of fiber, micronutrients and antioxidants, including the carotenoids that give their flesh and skin that classic deep orange hue. In addition to all its good nutrition, when freshly roasted and combined with the wholesomeness of lentils, the sweetest of apples and all the other layers here, pumpkin brings craveable texture and loads of earthy sweet flavor to the bowl.
Let’s talk a bit more about pumpkin and everything else in our Rich and Hearty Harvest Salad Bowl recipe.
The Good Ole’ Sugar Pumpkin
Our recipe specifically calls for using sugar pumpkin. Also called pie or sweet pumpkins, sugar pumpkins are the smaller, sweeter versions of the larger ones used for carving jack-o’-lanterns. Overall, their nutritional qualities are practically the same as their larger counterparts. As sugar pumpkins are less fibrous, they’re just better for roasting. You’ll want to grab the freshest sugar pumpkin you can find. It should be solid to the touch and free of soft spots and sunken areas.
A Boost of Texture and Heartiness
Much of the “heartiness” in our harvest salad bowl is owed to lentils. An excellent source of plant-based protein and disease-fighting fiber, they’re among the healthiest of legumes. Now, we already know that many people don’t like the taste and texture of lentils. If you’re one of many and not a fan, this recipe will surely convert you. It’s actually one of the ways Nina’s gotten her own family to eat lentils over the years. Eating them comes with great benefits too!
Compared to other legumes, lentils are among the highest in resistant starch – a type of slow-burning starch that helps slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and delay their absorption into the bloodstream. This ultimately helps prevent blood sugar spikes. While there are many types of lentils, we suggest using regular green or brown lentils. These lentils have a mild, slightly peppery flavor and maintain a medium to firm texture when cooked making them perfect for the bowl.
Fresh and Flavor-Packed Leafy Greens
Sticking to the tradition of harvest salad making, leafy green vegetables form the bulk of our bowl. While most varieties work, our recipe calls for arugula. Besides being a classic fall vegetable, with its tender texture and slightly peppery flavor, arugula melds very well with pumpkin and other sweet layers. Classified as both a leafy green veggie and a crucifer, arugula itself offers many of the same nutritional benefits as kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
Usually sold in bunches or packages, you can find arugula at just about any supermarket. You can also experiment with premixed salad greens that include arugula leaves. Whatever works!
Some Added Touches of Sweetness
A harvest bowl just isn’t a harvest bowl without some of the sweeter flavors of fall. Along with sugar pumpkin, That Salad Lady’s bowl includes a craveable combination of sweet apple and dried dates. Whether Fuji, Gala or Pink Lady, any sweet apples work. They’re all chock-full of powerful antioxidants and pectin – a special type of fiber. Largely owing to pectin, eating apples naturally supports intestinal balance, reduces blood sugar levels and promotes heart health.
Then there’s the dried dates, which are concentrated sources of nutrition due to their lack of water. Dried dates themselves are a good source of fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that they’re also sugar rich. If you’re watching your sugar intake, it’s perfectly fine to leave them out. You’ll still get plenty of sweetness and rich fall flavor with just the pumpkin and apple. Otherwise, a little sprinkle is all you’ll need – it’ll go a very long way!
Perfectly Toasted Almonds
Nuts are among the most classic of harvest salad layers. That’s why That Salad Lady‘s recipe includes almonds – a real fall favorite. The mild flavor and light, crunchy texture of almonds perfectly complements all the other layers in the bowl. As if they couldn’t get any better, toasting almonds makes them even tastier and crunchier. Like all nuts, almonds are a good source of fiber, heart-healthy fats and plant-based protein.
If you’re not a fan of almonds or don’t have any on hand, walnuts and pecans work too. If you have nut allergies, just swap out the nuts for pumpkin or sunflower seeds. These seeds each have equally tasty fall flavor, nice crunch and good nutrition.
Rich and Creamy Goat Cheese
When goat cheese comes together with autumn layers like dates and almonds, something pretty amazing happens! That’s why our harvest salad bowl includes this tangy, rich and creamy treat. Just a mere ping-pong ball sized serving of goat cheese packs loads of protein and probiotics. It offers more calcium than a single serving of cow cheese too. If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, you’ll likely enjoy it in this bowl. If you’ve never tasted it, you’re in for a treat.
A Refreshingly Bittersweet Finish
For a light and refreshing finish, we round out the recipe with That Salad Lady’s honey mustard vinaigrette dressing. A yummy combination of honey, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil and shallot, this bittersweet blend brings out the best flavors in the pumpkin, lentils and arugula. If you choose not to make our dressing, definitely stick with a simple wine-based vinaigrette. You want your dressing to enhance rather than overpower your bowl.
GET YOUR CHOP ON
Overall, the bulk of the prep work is done in chopping and cubing the sugar pumpkin. You’ll have to cube the apple as well, but it’s a much simpler process so we won’t even take a deep dive into that here. Using either a santoku knife or a high-quality chef’s knife will make the pumpkin chopping process a whole lot easier. If you don’t have one of these knives, just use the sharpest knife you have. You’ll also need a good cutting board or another stable cutting surface.
Now, even with the sharpest knife, it’s going to take some effort to cut through a pumpkin. Even a small one. You can lessen the load a little by piercing the skin and heating up the pumpkin a bit to soften it. Simply use a strong fork or the tip of a paring knife to poke a few small holes through the skin and then microwave the pumpkin for 2-3 minutes. While these steps are optional, they’ll definitely take some effort out of the chopping process.
Chop and Cube the Pumpkin
There are many ways to chop and cube a pumpkin. We keep it pretty simple here (watch the video below to see exactly how it’s done). First, halve the pumpkin by cutting through it lengthwise (from top to bottom) just parallel to the stem. Next, scoop out the stringy fibers and the seeds. Be sure to save the seeds for roasting (click here to see how it’s done). Once you’ve “gutted” the pumpkin, slice off the tops and bottoms of each halve (including the stem) and then peel their skins off using your knife or a peeler.
After the skins are removed, cut through each pumpkin half lengthwise. This’ll leave you with a quartered pumpkin. From there, cut each quarter into 1/2-inch strips (either lengthwise or widthwise) and then cut each strip into 1/2-inch cubes. That’s it for the chopping! Depending on the size of your pumpkin, you might have leftover cubes. In an airtight sealed container, any leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days or in the freezer for 3-6 months.
Some cooking is required for the: (1) pumpkin, (2) lentils and (3) almonds. Not to worry though – all the cooking methods are pretty straightforward. We suggest starting with the pumpkin, as it’ll take the longest to cook.
Roast the Pumpkin
Start by heating your oven to 400 degrees F. Gently wash the pumpkin cubes, transfer them to a bowl and fully coat them with some extra-virgin olive oil and generous sprinkles of cinnamon and nutmeg. Once coated, spread out the cubes on a baking dish and then roast them in the oven until all the cubes are tender and lightly browned. To ensure even browning, toss the cubes around a bit halfway through roasting.
The pumpkin will take about 20-25 minutes to fully roast. In the meantime, just enjoy the pleasantly mellow scents of autumn the pumpkin exudes as it roasts.
Rinse and Boil the Lentils
While the pumpkin is roasting, place the lentils in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse them under cold water. If you don’t have a fine-mesh strainer, just use a coffee filter. You’ll want to remove any small rocks or debris from the lentils prior to boiling them. Once the lentils are all rinsed and drained, add them to a small saucepan filled halfway with water and bring the water to a full boil. Once boiling, lower the temperature and cover the saucepan to let the lentils simmer.
You’ll want to cook the lentils until they’ve absorbed all the water and are nice and tender (about 15-20 minutes). At this point, remove the lid, gently fluff the lentils with a fork and set them aside until you’re ready to build your bowl.
Toast the Almonds
To toast the almonds, just heat up your oven to 350 degrees F, spread out the almonds on a dry baking pan or cookie sheet and bake them for 5-10 minutes until they’re nice and crispy. You’ll want to shake the pan halfway through for even toasting but that’s really it! Doesn’t get any simpler than this. You can follow the same process with walnuts or pecans.
Once you’ve chopped up and/or cooked the bulk of the ingredients for the salad bowl, the hard work is pretty much done. If using our honey mustard vinaigrette dressing, at this point, simply gather all the ingredients (see recipe card), add them to a blender or food processor and start the mixing process.
With variable speed units, start with a low speed and then gradually increase it to a higher speed until the mixture is perfectly smooth. That’s it!
If you don’t have a blender or a food processor, simply add all the ingredients to a jar with a twist off lid and just shake it up until everything’s well-mixed. You can also combine and whisk all your ingredients together in a bowl. With either method, you’ll just have to mince or finely dice the shallot in advance.
BUILD YOUR SALAD BOWL
We suggest you don’t “dress” or even build this salad until you’re actually ready to eat or serve it. Adding the dressing and layering the ingredients too soon can result in a soggy bowl. If you’re planning for leftovers, you won’t be at all happy with your creation the next day. It’s best to store all the layers separately in their own airtight containers and then build the salad on a bowl-by-bowl basis.
When you’re ready to build a bowl, gently toss the arugula, lentils and pumpkin together and then stir in some dressing to taste. From there, top off the mixture with sprinkles of chopped apple, dried dates, toasted almonds and goat cheese. You can sprinkle on some chia seeds too if you have them on hand.
All put together, the actual blend is large enough for eight servings. You can serve this Rich and Hearty Harvest Salad Bowl as a side dish or add another layer of protein (see below) to make it a full meal.
Add Your Finishing Touches
To boost the protein content and overall filling effect of your salad, throw in a handful of cooked salmon, chicken or even tempeh for a more vegan-friendly bowl. Visit our Nutrition Glossary for more ideas. It’s all about making YOU confident in building YOUR bowl.
SHOW US YOUR BOWL
That Salad Lady wants to see your bowl! If you like it, which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram with @thatsaladlady, #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl. If you love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook and Twitter using #thatsaladlady.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.