I fancy myself a bit of an oil connoisseur — in fact, oils will be the focus of my next cookbook — and I don’t often run across oils that I’ve never seen before. Lately, though, I did come across a lush new unrefined oil, one that tastes incredibly buttery and rich: butternut squash oil. A company in New York called Stony Brook Wholehearted Foods makes a line of squash oils, all made from roasted squash seeds. Their oils include kabocha, pumpkin, butternut, acorn, and delicata. I’ve only gotten my hands on the butternut squash seed oil so far, but I’m sure the others are equally delicious.
Since most seed oils are primarily polyunsaturated oils, these squash seed oils shouldn’t be heated. (And store them in the fridge!) But that leaves lots of possibilities: in dressings, drizzled onto breads, tossed with freshly popped popcorn, used as a finishing garnish for already-cooked dishes, even drizzled onto ice cream. (Hey, we put nuts on ice cream. Why not nutty-tasting oil?) Using these no-cook oils in their proper settings allows their unique flavors to really shine. This salad is no exception — you’ll taste the rich butteriness of the oil overlaid with the sauteed eggplant and earthy lentils. If you can’t find butternut squash seed oil, opt for a high-quality olive oil.
Lentil & Eggplant Salad with Butternut Squash Oil Serves 2. Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
1/2 cup brown lentils
2 medium beets, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 small unpeeled eggplant, ends removed, cut into 1/2″-thick slices
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
Drizzle of pomegranate molasses
Double handful of mixed greens
1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained
2 T. butternut squash seed oil OR extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
Sea salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add lentils and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until lentils have reached desired tenderness. Fill another medium pot halfway with water and bring to a boil, then add beets and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 10 minutes uncovered or until beets have reached their desired tenderness. Drain lentils and beets in separate colanders. (That way, if you want to save any lentils or beets for later, you won’t have stained-purple lentils.)
Add a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil to a large skillet. Stir in eggplant and cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until eggplant slices are beginning to soften and turn translucent. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, and the pomegranate molasses and continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until garlic is soft and fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in drained lentils and beets.
In a large bowl, toss together mixed greens, chickpeas, and the cooked veggies. Drizzle in the oil and vinegar and toss gently to combine, then salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. The lettuce won’t do too well leftover, but the cooked veggies can be refrigerated for 4 days.