About a month ago now, I was invited to Wisconsin to get a better look into their thriving cheese community. I was aware prior to my visit that Wisconsin is big into cheese, but I had no idea how much people live for it over there. I had seen those cheese-head hats, which yes, they do sell at the airport, but that is no joke. These people are serious about cheese. A small group of us were able to tour the grounds of some great cheese makers, both small and large scale, and I was so impressed by how passionate these people are about their craft. What a pleasure it was to learn from people who know their subject so well. I am not a cheese afficiando, I have my favorites but I eat it pretty sparingly. That said, I hadn't seen the process run its course from the start of seperating the curds and whey, adding the cultures, shaping, caring, and the details of aging the cheese. What an art. I am so attracted to people who love what they do, and do it exceptionally. Not to mention that the landscape was gorgeous and it was refreshingly chilly while we were having a 90° October at home.
I've been brainstorming what to bring for my Thanksgiving side dish and fiddled around with a cheese I had tried at Uplands Cheese. It's similar to a gruyere - creamy, nutty and bold. If you're looking for something with vibrant color and a bit of richness, squash and greens with a hint of cheese is my favorite combination. This salad is still a favorite. Not that it will only do for the holiday, but I figure that's the topic of the week, so I wanted to participate. Happy meal planning. I've got my stretchy pants ready.
ROASTED ACORN SQUASH + HARVEST SALAD // Serves 4
The dressing included is from the House Salad in my cookbook. It's pretty mild and the perfect amount of creamy. I also think Aida's tahini dressing would be interesting here if you aren't planning on using the cheese. Or hey, maybe if you are. If you need a quicker fix, a 2:1 ratio of a great quality extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic and pinch of salt + pepper will do. In any case, go easy on the dressing or the salad portion of the dish gets too heavy.
- 1 acorn squash
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil or melted coconut oil
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- few pinches of salt
- 4 cups arugula
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 cup halved, red grapes
- 1 rib of celery, sliced thin
- 1/3 cup toasted pecan pieces
- a hearty handful shaved, Gruyere-type cheese (I used Pleasant Ridge Reserve)
- // dressing //
- 2 1/2 Tbsp. crème fraiche
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1 scallion, white part only, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- ½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 400'.
Cut the acorn squash into quarters, scoop out seeds and prick the flesh a few times with a fork. Drizzle the squash with the oil and vinegar and rub it around to coat, being sure the flesh is coated. Lay them cut side up on a baking tray, sprinkle with salt and bake for about 35 minutes or until the outer edges are crisp and you can easily pierce through the flesh. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a mini blender or food processor, blend all dressing ingredients until smooth and combined. The dressing can be prepared up to three days in advance. Combine all the salad ingredients, besides the cheese, in a large bowl and toss with a few Tbsp. of the dressing (or desired amount). Arrange the squash on a plate and stuff the centers with the green salad. Top with desired amount of the shaved cheese and fresh ground pepper to finish.
I was invited to Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. All thoughts and opinions are my own.