The end of summer doesn’t mean the end of salads. It’s just that a good fall salad requires some substance to meet the season’s hungry demands. Winter squash, piling up at farmers markets, is just right for adding a little heft to the harvest of sturdy greens — kale, arugula and the last crop of spinach.
Butternut squash is the perfect candidate for a colorful autumn salad. Its skin is thin and smooth, making it the easiest squash to peel, and I often don’t bother because the tender skin softens as it cooks. Butternut’s flesh is vibrant orange and tastes ever so slightly of brown sugar and maple, earthy yet not too sweet.
When cubed and roasted in a hot oven, butternut’s sugars rise to the surface, developing a caramel crust as the flesh turns velvety and lush. Roasting doesn’t require much more than a sheen of oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper (but you can add a few red pepper flakes for a bite of heat). Tossed with fall’s greens in a tart vinaigrette, these golden chunks give the salad more body without weighing it down.
As long as you’re cubing and roasting squash, it makes sense to double the quantity. These are terrific tossed with pasta and Parmesan cheese or puréed with stock and a splash of cream into a warming soup; fold them into an omelet, toss them onto pizza. They also make a fine side dish on their own. In truth, I often pick these crisped sweet bites right out of the pan with my fingers (when no one is looking).
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
Use just about any sturdy salad green for this recipe — kale, spinach, arugula or romaine — alone or combined. You may end up with more dressing than you need, but it will keep refrigerated in a covered jar for about a week. From Beth Dooley.
For the salad:
• 1 1/2 lb. butternut squash, seeded, peeled (if desired) and cut into 1-in. cubes
• 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
• Pinch kosher salt
• A few grinds black pepper
• 1 lemon, juice and zest
• 1 small shallot, minced
• 2 tsp. chopped rosemary
• 1 good-sized bunch, about 1/2 lb., dinosaur kale, spinach, arugula, romaine or a combination of greens
• 1/2 c. chopped red onion
• Pinch red pepper flakes
• 1/4 c. pepitas
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash into a large bowl and toss with a little of the oil (about a tablespoon) to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast until the edges are crisped and the squash is tender, about 20-25 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally and turning pieces with a spatula so they crisp on all sides. Remove from the oven and set aside.
While squash is roasting, make the vinaigrette. Combine the lemon zest and juice, shallot, rosemary and remaining oil in a jar with a lid and shake until well combined.
Turn the greens into a salad bowl along with the squash and red onion and drizzle in just enough of the dressing to lightly coat. Season to taste with more salt and pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Toss pepitas into salad before serving.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.