Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

Fall is officially upon us.  It's time to break out the boots, scarves and sweaters and put away my beloved flip flops, t-shirts and summer dresses.  Can you tell I'm not really a cold weather person. It's kind of sad. I really miss that California sunshine, although they are getting a little rain today, while we have been getting rain on and off (more on than off) for the past three weeks. 

On a more positive note, I have come to appreciate seasonal foods. The weather just seems to demand hearty comfort foods and soothing soup to warm up those bones.  So bye bye strawberries and peaches and good ole' watermelon...just to name a few.  Let's give a warm hello to pumpkin, kale and my new favorite butternut squash. 

After discovering butternut squash last fall/winter (see how delicious, I even made Mr. Foodie a believer) I am especially looking forward to incorporating more of it into my diet this year.  I found this recipe in the Back to Basics cookbook by Ina Garten (given to me by my dear friend JPA who had it autographed by the Contessa herself!!!).  I thought a salad was a great choice to ease my way into the richness of fall flavors.  The warm roasted flavor from the butternut squash is a lovely compliment to the dried cranberries. The salad is then tossed with an apple cider vinegar dressing and topped with toasted chopped walnuts that pairs well with the bitter arugula. This salad could be a great side or just as filing if served as a main course.

So tell me, what are some of your fall food favorites?

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
serves 4

1 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced
1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon maple syrup
salt and pepper
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces baby arugula, washed and dried
1/4 cup dried cranberries (I used sweetened)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a large bowl, toss the squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper.  Spread the squash on a sheet pan and roast for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until squash is tender.

Prepare the vinaigrette while the squash is roasting.  In a small saucepan, combine apple cider, vinegar and shallots. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat cooking for 6-8 minutes.  Cook until the cider is reduced to 1/4 cup.  Remove from heat and whisk in mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl.  Add  the roasted squash, dried cranberries and walnuts.  Toss well with just enough vinaigrette to moisten the salad.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

adapted from Ina Garten, Back to Basics

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