[From my Cooking from Scratch column.]
Two spaghetti squash, one butternut, one trombone squash, and several decorative mini-pumpkins—that's what was sitting on my kitchen counter last weekend. My husband benignly eyed them all, “I guess it's time for the squash invasion again, huh?”
I swear, come the beginning of October, squash just start to follow me home.
I'm not sorry that they do. Who could be sorry for sweet pumpkin ravioli? For golden butternut squash risotto? For spaghetti squash threads tossed with garlic, thyme and olive oil? And winter squash is full of vitamin A, too, which can help support your immune system through winter flu season—a double bonus!
But, if you do happen to get tired of rich, buttery squash served hot, then, in my humble squash-loving opinion, that only means it's time to try it cold—over a crisp bed of lettuce and slathered in smokey squash dressing.
Studded with cranberries and pumpkin seeds, this harvest salad won't be mistaken for one of its airy summer cousins. With fall greens, a hint of anise-y fennel, and salty bacon, its hearty enough to stand alone as dinner.
That being said, feel free to play with the toppings according to what you have on hand when a beautiful squash sneaks itself into your grocery sack. Hardboiled eggs and avocado aren’t bad choices to sub for the feta, ham will do for the bacon, and so forth.
The only rule is that you must make the dressing and drizzle it on copiously. Yes, you’re putting squash on squash, but if you haven’t already surmised how I feel about that you haven’t been reading carefully enough!
Butternut Squash Harvest Salad
For the salad:
- 1 large butternut squash
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper, a pinch of each
- 3-4 cups of lettuce (arugula and baby kale are good choices)
- 1 bunch of fennel
- 1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 4 slices of cooked, crumbled bacon
- ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
For the smokey squash dressing:
- 1 cup roasted butternut squash cubes (reserved from butternut squash used for the salad)
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Peel the butternut squash and cut it into about 1 inch chunks. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the cubes with the olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until the squash cubes can easily be pierced with a fork.
Let the squash cool for just a few minutes, then make the dressing. To do so, put 1 cup of the squash cubes into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times, then add the rest of the dressing ingredients. Continue to process until the dressing is smooth. If it ends up a little thick, feel free to add water—about ¼ cup at a time—to get it to a good, salad dressing consistency.
Next, slice the fennel (white parts only) very thinly and toss it with the lettuce. Spread the lettuce mixture onto a large cutting board or pour it into a big bowl. Arrange the chicken, cherry tomatoes, feta, bacon and remaining squash cubes in neat lines across the top of the lettuce. Sprinkle on the pumpkin seeds and cranberries, then drizzle on the smokey squash dressing.