Harvest Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette.

Magazine Cuisine

See if you can believe this: pumpkin lover though I am, I've cooked with a fresh pumpkin only once in my life: bread-pudding stuffed pumpkin from a Victory Gardens recipe my brother Mark shared with me years ago. Then I managed to lose the recipe and haven't cooked with fresh pumpkin since, although I've used a good deal of the canned kind (thank goodness the canned pumpkin shortage is over!). Until last weekend, that is, when I finally tried "Harvest Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette" from the September/October 2008 issue of Victoria Magazine. (This recipe is not posted at the Victoria mag site, unfortunately.)

I've been drooling over the Harvest Salad recipe for two years: imagine seasoned (and
bathed in butter) baked pumpkin slices atop mixed greens then tossed with bacon/balsamic vinaigrette and sprinkled with toasted pecans. Gimme! Grocery stores around here don't generally carry small pie pumpkins (or "sugar" pumpkins) meant for cooking and eating, so when I saw them at a local garden center for $3 each I pounced.
Pumpkin salad ingredients
This is the first time I've carved a pumpkin in September, I'm sure of that.

Pumpkin salad punkin
I cut out the top, then sliced the wee thing in half. Oh, that fresh pumpkin smell really brings Halloween closer! I breathed it in for a few minutes, while visions of jack o'lanterns danced in my head. A bonus: these smaller pumpkins are much easier to cut through then thick carving pumpkins.

Pumpkin salad cut open punkin
I considered baking the seeds, but there's plenty of time for that come the end of October. That's another wonderful smell in the house--seasoned pumpkin seeds baking on a cookie sheet. One of my favorite scents of autumn!

Pumpkin salad punkin open seeds
Peeling wasn't too bad, but pumpkins certainly have tougher skin than apples or carrots. Our nice sharp vegetable peeler helped (I would not recommend a paring knife for this task), although the skin tended to fly off in big flakes all over the kitchen. It was messy but manageable.

Pumpkin salad cutting up
Now butter is melted with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then brushed onto the slices. Anything brushed with melted seasoned butter is, in my cookbook, destined to be delicious! I love butter, especially when it is melting onto something hot like rice, vegetables, pasta or homemade bread. As far as I'm concerned, butter is the elixir of life.

Pumpkin salad buttered slices
A simple vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, olive oil (I used our favorite Lucini, one of the few real indulgences in our pantry--don't freak too badly when you see the price, it's worth every penny), chopped garlic, and crumbled crispy bacon is whisked together. In the future I might leave the bacon out of the dressing and instead crumble it over the dressed salad. The recipe also called for liberally dressing the greens in advance with the vinaigrette; I opted toss them with the merest drizzle--just enough to make them glisten and give them some flavor.

Pumpkin salad greens cheese
The fully assembled salad, if I humbly say so myself, was extremely tasty! The mix of flavors and textures worked beautifully together: warm, buttery seasoned pumpkin, bright tangy mixed greens, savory-salty bacon vinaigrette, crunchy toasted pecans.

Pumpkin salad day 1
Somehow the lightly dressed greens gave the whole dish a sophistication I don't normally accomplish (or even aim for) at home. We sprinkled parmesan cheese on top, but agreed it didn't really need the cheese. Which is saying a lot because we love sprinkling freshly grated parmesan cheese on just about everything. (We also love slicing it up and snacking on it while we're preparing dinner.)

Kenny gave his enthusiastic approval, too, saying that if we opened a restaurant this should be at the top of the menu. He's a generous and wonderfully willing culinary guinea pig! We probably won't be opening a restaurant, but we'll be eating a lot of pumpkin dishes--including this one--over the next few months.

Pumpkin salad day 2
It was equally tasty as leftovers two days later. And it was a delicious diversion from sweetened pumpkin recipes, although there will be more of those to come in the very near future! Next up, though: Spiced Pumpkin Rolls, also from Victoria Magazine.

Harvest Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette
From the September/October 2008 Victoria Magazine

Makes 6 servings

1 baking pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-1/2-inch-thick slices
1/4 cup melted butter
1-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 shallot, minced
6 cups salad greens
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup toasted pecans

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
  • Place the pumpkin slices 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and garlic powder; evenly coat pumpkin slices with the butter mixture. Roast pumpkin for4 20 minutes, or until tender.
  • Using a food processor, mix together the oil, vinegar, remaining salt, remaining pepper, bacon, and shallot until well blended.
  • In a large bowl, toss the salad greens with 3/4 cup of the vinaigrette. Mound the greens on a serving plate, and top with roasted pumpkin. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the pumpkin, and top with the Parmesan cheese and pecans.

Notes: I flipped the pumpkin slices about halfway through baking. I used precooked bacon, to save time (it toasts up nice and crisp in a toaster oven in about 3 minutes). I drizzled just a small amount of the vinaigrette on the greens, instead of using the 3/4 cup called for.