It's the time of the year to add some more fall, robust vegetables to salads, and this one can be dressed up with pomegranate arils, dried cherries or dried cranberries to give it more pop. I love the combination of the spices used when roasting both the squash and the candied pecans with the sharpness of feta cheese. Some of the recipes I came across to get ideas from used delicata squash, which I did not have on hand, so I opted for acorn squash and sliced it very thinly.
The vinaigrette consists of both balsamic and red wine vinegar combined with maple syrup, a combination that goes really well with the roasted squash and pecans. To begin with, here are the ingredients for the salad:
- 1 acorn squash, deseeded and sliced thinly
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 teaspoons dried sage or 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped finely
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 large head or 2 small heads romaine lettuce, washed and torn (or chopped)
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in ice water for 20-30 minutes
- 4-5 sprigs of Italian parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries, chopped (or 1/2 cup Pomegranate arils)
- 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
To begin, preheat the oven to 415° F. then wash, half and deseed the acorn squash. Slice it very thinly into half-ring slices, and toss it with olive oil, sage and salt and pepper and place it in a large roasting pan. Roast for about 20 minutes until it reaches a nice golden color and is cooked thoroughly. Set it aside to come to room temperature.
After washing and chopping the lettuce, place it in a bowl and add the purple onion, parsley, and the chopped dried cherries or cranberries (or pomegranate arils). Soaking the sliced onion in ice water helps to remove some of the bite and mellows the flavor of the raw onion.
For the candied pecans, you will need:
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- pinch of cayenne (optional)
Simply heat the olive oil in a saute' pan over medium high heat, add the pecan halves and roast them for about 5 minutes, stirring to evenly cook them. When they have reached a nice brown color, turn the heat down to low and add the maple syrup, salt and cayenne (if using) and continue to cook them for a few minutes, stirring to coat all the pecans. Remove them from the pan onto a plate and let them cool and set. These keep well in a tightly sealed jar for a few weeks. For this salad, I use about 1/2 cup, depending on the number of people I am serving.
For the vinaigrette, you will need:
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of cayenne (optional)
Combine all these ingredients in a bowl or carafe and blend with a hand blender. You can also put all the ingredients in a stand blender and blend until fully emulsified.
Finally, add the cooled squash to the other salad ingredients, add in the feta cheese and candied pecans, drizzle with about 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and toss gently to combine. Alternatively, if you are serving the salad later, you can layer all the ingredients on top of the salad greens and put it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it and dress it right beforehand.
I wish all of you a happy holiday season and would love to hear any comments you may have!