Friday, February 13, 2015

Spinach, Squash and Apple Salad

Last Year's Post: Sesame Seed Chicken Salad
Two Years Ago:  Linguini alla Puttanesca

I firmly believe in eating main dish salads all year long.  They're good for you and they actually work particularly well in colder months to balance out the heavy foods we tend to eat at that time of the year.  So if you're planning lasagna or beef stew one night, balance it out by having an entree salad with plenty of veggies or fruits the next night.  We try to plan at least one salad meal per week, but the key is to plan for lots of variety or you'll very quickly get bored if you pick up the same old salad bar version every week.  (That's why you'll see so many salads posted on this blog.)

So that's the first tip - eat a wide variety of salads.  The second tip is to use at least one or two seasonal ingredients when possible, for freshness and because it helps add variety as you move through the seasons.  The third tip is to consider adding substantial meatless salads to your collection (like this one).  You won't miss the meat if you add enough other interesting fibers and proteins.  And finally, use the very best and freshest ingredients possible, like these beautiful greens that I found - a mix of spinach, arugula, mizzuna, and leaf lettuce.  Then I added a head of lacy, curly frisee to make it even prettier.  Doesn't that make you want to dive in?

This salad has a fall/winter feel due to the roasted squash, apples, pecans and maple dressing.  The tangy and slightly sweet dressing works best if you have some bitterness in the greens, so be sure to throw in some arugula.  If you can't find arugula, a little radicchio would also work.  As with most salads, the interplay of textures and flavors works best if there are contrasts - crunchy and creamy, bitter and sweet.

If you're really pressed for time the day you plan to serve it, you can prepare the squash and salad dressing in advance so all you have to do that night is chop and assemble.

Oh, one more tip - make the salad look as beautiful as you can by arranging the ingredients.  Someone once said we eat with our eyes first, which is kind of annoying but true.  Look at the picture up top, then at this picture after it was tossed.  It still looks really good, but not quite as spectacular.  And it only take a minute or two to arrange each salad on individual plates.

printable recipe
Spinach, Squash and Apple Salad
Serves 4

½ medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Fuji apple
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
6-oz bag baby spinach, arugula, or combination of greens
¼ medium red onion, very thinly sliced
½ cup blue cheese, crumbled
 ½ cup dried cherries or cranberries
½ cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400d.

In a medium bowl, toss the squash cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss again.  Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes until the cubes are starting to turn golden and lightly browned, flipping once.  Remove and cool.

For the salad dressing, combine ¼ cup olive oil, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a small bowl; whisk to combine.  Core the apple, cut into thin slices, and toss with the lemon juice to prevent browning.

To assemble the salad, toss the greens with half the dressing and divide among plates.  Decoratively top with the squash, apple, onion, cherries and pecans.  Drizzle the remaining dressing on the top and serve.

1 comment:

Marne said...

Peeling butternut squash is so annoying and time consuming! Is there an easy way to accomplish this?