Chef Casey Overton’s Raw Pumpkin Salad Surprise

Overton’s delectable salad showcases raw fairytale pumpkin, along with cooked farro, frisee and pomegranate vinaigrette.

Casey Overton, chef de cuisine at The Loft at Montage Laguna Beach, teams well-honed classic techniques and vibrant flavor pairings with delectable creative twists.

His enchanting cuisine comforts while at the same time surprises.

‘Just to give an example …

 

 

His risotto is rich with La Quercia bacon, offering a pleasing saltiness and toothsome texture contrast to the creamy rice. A sunny-side up quail egg rests in the center, cooked under the salamander broiler just long enough to set the white but leave the yolk delightfully runny. A garnish of fresh celery leaf, nabbed from the pale green heart, offers a just-right compliment to the rich flavors that surround it.

His fall menu showcases a salad with cooked farro, Asian pears and irresistible pomegranate vinaigrette. The element of surprise is the inclusion of raw pumpkin cut into oh-so-thin ribbons.

He prefers the fairytale pumpkin, the deeply fluted beauty with pale salmon rind mottled with green. A sweet pie pumpkin is a good substitute. Peeled and served in skinny strips, either choice tastes much like cantaloupe.

Home cooks can simplify the salad by using one or two elements of the concoction. The brightly-flavored vinaigrette is easy to prepare; it’s delicious spooned on the periphery of plate surrounding a simple mixed green salad that is lightly napped with a simple oil-and-vinegar dressing. Top the greens with sliced Bartlett or Asian pears and garnish with toasted peptitas.

Overton lives in Anaheim Hills with his wife and three preschool sons. He is shown here in my kitchen with Sous Chef Aaron Gable (who is holding a fairytale pumpkin). Overton says that this variety of pumpkin is a little softer in texture than kabocha. He advises that a sweet pie pumpkin is a good substitute.

Here is the recipe … (TO PRINT RECIPE, the best approach is to cut/paste special. 1. highlight text – hit copy or control C  2. open a new word document   3. go to edit and hit paste special  4. hit unformatted text   5. hit OK  6. Now you can print it and it will look perfect.)

Raw Fairytale Pumpkin and Farro Salad with Shaved Asian Pears and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Yield: 4 to 6 salads
3 cups pomegranate juice, such as Pom
1 cup semi-pearled farro
Sprig of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 Fairytale Pumpkin
2 heads frisee
2 Asian pears
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot, peeled, quartered
1 cup grapeseed oil (or canola oil)
Extra-virgin olive oil, enough to lightly coat
Meyer lemon juice, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Garnish: 1/2 cup toasted pepitas, see cook’s notes
Cook’s notes – farro: Use semi-pearled (the package often says “semi-perlato”) that cooks in 15 to 20 minutes in simmering water or broth. If the package doesn’t designate it as “semi-pearled,” look at the cooking directions on the package; if it says that it cooks in less than 25 minutes, you can assume it is semi-pearled. Farro is sold at natural food stores, such as Whole Foods. Peptitas, toasted pumpkin seeds or squash seeds, are sold at Trader Joe’s, natural food stores and some supermarkets.
1. 4. Prepare reduced pomegranate juice: Place pomegranate juice in medium saucepan and reduce by about half, or until it is syrupy.
2. At The Loft, they cook farro like rice if cooked for risotto in broth, onion, thyme and bay leaf. But Overton says you can simply boil it in water to cover, along with a sprig of thyme and bay leaf, until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, remove thyme and bay leaf; cool to room temperature.
3. Cut pumpkin in half. Reserve half for another use. Peel half pumpkin and shave into long thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler; set aside.
4. Pick the frisee into small bundles discarding most of the white. Shave the skin-on pears very thin into rounds; set aside.
5. Prepare vinaigrette: place syrup, red wine vinegar, mustard and shallot in blender. Start on low speed and increase to medium to puree shallot; with the motor running, add the grapeseed oil in a thin steam and blend until vinaigrette is thickened slightly and is glossy.
6. In a large bowl, toss pumpkin, pear, frisee with enough olive oil to lightly coat the leaves. Add lemon juice and pepper to taste; toss. In a separate bowl, toss farro with enough of the Pomegranate Vinaigrette to coat. Divide the farro between serving plates. Top each with the pumpkin salad. Drizzle some Pomegranate Vinaigrette over the tops and garnish with toasted pepitas.
Source: Casey Overton, Chef de Cuisine The Loft, Montage Laguna Beach

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