Monday, October 19, 2009


Just a little over a month after discovering my new favorite salad, I’ve found its autumn counterpart in this showstopper from the Barefoot Contessa (via The Way the Cookie Crumbles, where I was tickled to see that the monkey peeler featured in the photos is the same one that’s sitting on the shelf over my stove). The arugula and toasted walnuts are still with us, but in this new version the boiled potatoes are replaced by maple-glazed roasted butternut squash, the green beans are now dried cranberries, and the dressing is still mustardy (yes, this Dijonphobe is finally learning to love what a little Grey Poupon can do to a salad dressing), but now based in a reduction of apple cider and cider vinegar for an orgy of fallishness. It’s warmer and bolder, but still light and fresh enough to be perfect for the uncertain Southern California autumn, when the temperature seems to rollercoaster between the 50s and the 90s at a moment’s notice, so that the wintry menu you planned on Friday might seem oppressively heavy and hot by the time Wednesday rolls around.

Again, the real magic lies in the contrast of flavors and textures: the peppery arugula, the caramelized squash, the tart cranberries, the earthy walnuts, the salty cheese, and the sweet-sour dressing. While it wasn’t as much of a revelation for me as the potato-green bean salad (and was certainly more labor-intensive), I’ll be happily making it again, and A adored it. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy the first squash of the season.

The recipe below reflects a few changes to the original, because I did think some of the proportions were a tad bonkers: specifically, the fact that it calls for so much olive oil (½ cup in the dressing, or two tablespoons per serving) and Parmesan (¾ cup or 3 tablespoons per serving). WTF, Ina? Why drown a healthy, colorful salad in unnecessary fat? Since I, too, like my dressings on the acidic side, I followed the lead of The Way the Cookie Crumbles and used only about ¼ cup of oil in the dressing, which was plenty (I still had more dressing than we needed). I should have reduced the salt in the dressing correspondingly, though; a whole teaspoon made it crazy salty (A liked it, but then that man would happily eat a salt lick sprinkled with bacon bits). Next time, ½ teaspoon. And it might sound incongruous, given what a die-hard cheese lover I am, but I can’t imagine this salad with so much cheese, so I cut back to about ¼ cup. Maybe it was the fact that the photos at The Way the Cookie Crumbles didn’t include the Parmesan, but I just kept forgetting that the cheese should be there at all. It did add a nice salty/savory quality, but a spoonful per bowl seemed plenty, and when I ate the leftovers, I didn’t bother with the cheese and didn’t miss it. So I’d even go so far as to classify it as optional.

A few other random thoughts:
  • When I pulled the maple syrup out of the fridge, I noticed that it had expired…in August 2008. Guess we need to eat more pancakes around here. Maybe it was my imagination, shocked by this discovery, but I thought it smelled a little weird, though I can’t imagine how exactly syrup would go bad. Anyway, it was OK for the squash glaze, but I threw the rest away.
  • I used fancy-schmancy hippie hand-pressed unpasteurized handmade cider from the farmers’ market for the dressing, but since you’re reducing it, any cider or apple juice would work just fine.
  • I’m not a cranberry lover, but I liked the effect of roasting them for a few minutes—they got addictively plump and chewy. Nice touch!
1½ pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch dice
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
½ cup walnut halves or pieces
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 dried
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place the butternut squash on a baking sheet. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste, then toss to combine. Roast the squash for 15 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries and walnuts to the pan and cook for 5 minutes more.

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, ¼ cup olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper.

4. Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Season with salt and pepper (if necessary) and serve immediately.

Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Fair, actually, if all the ingredients are stored separately. I mixed up half the salad for dinner the first night, then stored the remaining arugula in a bag, the remaining squash mixture in a microwaveable container, and the remaining dressing in a small jar. When we wanted to eat the leftovers, I warmed up the squash mixture, then mixed it with the arugula and dressing (I skipped the cheese, but you could add it at this point) and it was just as good as it had been the first time around.

1 comment:

Bridget said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this! I agree with you about the parmesan (and I'm quite a fan of cheese as well!) - I don't know if it's just because I forgot to use it the first time anyway, but when I did add it the next time I made the salad, it didn't really seem necessary.

I'll have to try out SK's green bean-potato-arugula salad. I think when she first published it, my mind registered it as "potato salad with stuff" and not as a green salad with potatoes, which sounds more appetizing.