Working out is an incredibly important part of staying healthy, but it's just one piece of the puzzle (this article from 2016 still haunts me). Since I so often associate food with rewards, "eating healthy" or swapping something decadent like pasta or pizza for a salad can feel like a punishment. But with the right recipe, it can be anything but, as I learned on a work trip to Canada last year when I discovered possibly the best salad I've ever eaten.
When I visited Toronto, I received an incredible number of restaurant recommendations from readers, with La Palma mentioned again and again (thank you!). The restaurant, located in Toronto's trendy Trinity Bellwoods neighborhood only opened last year, but has already received a significant amount of buzz, and it was immediately clear why. It was easily one of the prettiest restaurants I've ever seen and Cristina and I managed to photograph nearly every single angle (gorgeous bathroom included).
Everything we ordered was delicious, but what stood out the most was a salad. The Roasted Squash and Belluga Lentils created by Executive Chef Julian D'Ippolito was perfectly balanced—hearty, yet unexpectedly bright with briny, yet sweet feta and crunchy fried chickpeas, topped with basil. I loved it so much, that after returning home, I immediately emailed the restaurant to ask if I could share it here and was thrilled to learn that, not only is it delicious and beautiful but it's fairly simple to make. Here's how to make the Roasted Squash and Belluga Lentils with Flowering Kale, Feta, and Chickpeas:
Preheat oven to 475° F
Season Delicata squash with salt, pepper, and olive oil and place on a sheet tray. Roast for 5 to 10 minutes, or until golden. Set aside to cool.
While the squash cooks, prepare the pesto and lemon dressing.
To make the Kale Pesto, add all the ingredients aside from the olive oil to a food processor. While running the food processor, slowly stream in the olive oil until fully incorporated. Season with salt, to taste.
To prepare the Lemon Dressing, place the lemon juice into a blender. On medium-low speed, slowly drizzle in vegetable oil until emulsified. Add salt to taste. (This dressing is dead-simple as the real punch comes from the pesto!)
To build the salad, in a salad bowl, add lemon dressing and kale pesto and mix to combine. Toss in both flowering and baby kale and allow to macerate for 2 minutes. Add chickpeas, lentils, and roasted squash. Mix gently as you don’t want to damage the squash. Toss until salad is coated evenly. Adjust seasoning if needed—the final product should be complex but not overpowering.
Transfer to a serving bowl or plate and garnish with crispy chickpeas, watermelon radish, crumbled feta, and micro-basil. The chickpeas are optional but act as a crouton and give a nice crunch!
Looking for more recipe inspiration? Take a look at our past restaurant recipe posts, with Pizzana's Amatriciana Pizza, Cosa Buona's Pasta Salad, Kismet's Turkish(ish) Breakfast, Jon & Vinny's Little Gem Caesar Salad, and The Ponte's Spaghetti al Pomodoro.