You are lovely, you are. How many times have you shored me up? Countless. Truly. Thank you, now and always, for your kindness, your sympathy and empathy, your thoughtful and carefully chosen words. You have said so many things to me that I have turned over in my mind, and that have offered a great depth of comfort. I will tell you a little more about my friend at some point. I will. I'd love to. I wrote the tiniest bit here, about losing her. I hope to write more.
I've made this particular salad a number of times lately. I like it because it uses the end of the winter storage squash, but then it gestures towards spring with its bright flavors and heaps of herbs (and much as I want to be all asparagus and radishes, all that's growing here right now is mud and puddles). It's based on a Thai salad I love called nam sod, which is usually made with ground pork or chicken, and has this same flavor thing happening: ginger and chiles and raw onions, lime and salt and herbs, peanuts and fish sauce.
It is so, so good, and I wanted to make a vegetarian version of it for a potluck we were going to, so I made it with squash (I left some out for the vegetarians before adding the fish sauce).
Some people won't like it. Some people will like it just fine or even a great deal. And some people will become deranged about it, obsessed, and the email they send asking for the recipe will be time-stamped 3:25 AM, because they were up in the night thinking about it in all it's spicy-crunchy-tender-sour-salty-caramelized glory. I will say that Michael, who is generally baffled by winter squash and people's affection for it, likes it quite a lot prepared this way. "I love the mint and cilantro," he just said when I asked him. And then (this isn't saying much, but still), "I would say it's my favorite squash preparation." Recipe follows a brief photo essay. Enjoy!
Thai-style Squash Salad with Masses of Herbs
It doesn’t matter if you have a little more or less squash: just adjust the dressing accordingly. You can also add other vegetables to the squash, such as roasted Brussels sprouts, which are lovely in here. I haven’t tried sautéed mushrooms, but I feel like they would add a nice, chewy textural element; cooked barley might add that too. Another note: don’t be shy about the salt and lime and chili paste. You want the dressing to taste too salty and sour and spicy before it interacts with the robustly mild, oppressively sweet squash.
2 medium butternut squash (or 1 massive one), enough to make about 10 cubs diced squash
¼ cup melted coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
1/3 cup lime juice (around 2 limes)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1-3 tablespoons sambal oolek (Malaysian chili paste) or sriracha (or something else Asian and spicy)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
3 tablespoons very finely slivered ginger
1/2 cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, halved and sliced thin
1 bunch cilantro, with stems, roughly chopped
Leaves from one bunch mint, the largest leaves torn in half and the rest left whole
Heat the oven to 450 and line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Meanwhile, whisk together the lime juice, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, chili paste, and fish sauce.
Gently toss the squash with about half the dressing and taste: it should be tart, salty, and spicy. Add the ginger, toss again, then leave to cool. Top with the peanuts, onion, and herbs. Toss gently just before serving, then taste again and re-dress as needed.