It’s hard to believe that most years, I’m anti-anything fall until October 1st. Not this year. September included pumpkin breakfasts, apple desserts, and plenty of pumpkin beer. Granted, the weather was pretty warm in September and the trees were still green so it didn’t feel much like fall, but it didn’t feel like summer either.
That all changed on October 1st, when I had to turn the heat on for the first time, and our dinner complimented the cool, crisp weather – salad with roasted butternut squash, cranberries, walnuts, and dressing made from reduced apple cider, served with sweet potato biscuits.
Every ingredient in the salad is maximized. The squash, seasoned and drizzled with maple syrup, is roasted until it’s caramelized. The walnuts are toasted, and so are the cranberries, which was a trick I hadn’t seen before. The cider, reduced to less than a third of its initial volume, is mixed with acidic cider vinegar and emulsifying mustard to form the base of the dressing.
It was delicious; so good, in fact, that I made again the next day for lunch. It was sweet, but also tangy from the dressing, a bit bitter from the walnuts, and spicy from the arugula. I also like that the hot squash and dressing slightly wilt the arugula – it shrinks it a bit, so it doesn’t take so darn long to eat a nice bowl full of greens. Which is a good thing, because then I can eat more of it.
One year ago: Spinach, Artichoke, and Red Pepper Strata
I used less oil. I didn’t measure the amount, but I’m guessing it was ¼ cup; I only ever use enough oil to just balance the acidity. Also, I liked to let the dressing and squash cool just a few minutes before mixing them with the greens. I forgot the cheese the first time I made the salad, when I photographed it.
1 (1½-pound) butternut squash, peeled and ¾-inch) diced
good olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
½ cup walnuts halves
¾ cup apple cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries and walnuts to the pan for the last 5 minutes.
3. While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about ¼ cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, ½ cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper.
4. Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.