There is something about purchasing vegetables from a farm stand that makes you feel like you are buying happy produce. The people who work there are typically humble, hands on, and generous in preparation advice. They will gladly peel open an orange so you can taste how much bolder it is than its conventional grocery store counterpart. I remember my first day working at an organic farm up in San Luis Obispo, they handed me a hatchet (Hugh is shuddering at the thought of this) and we began pulling out deep rooted celery, my arms working so hard they were shaking. I put in hours in exchange for a big box of vegetables at the end of the week, and even after shoveling goat doody, filthy clothes and shaking arms, I still feel I got the best end of the deal. It’s usually the ugly ones that taste the best, the nubby, chunky squash that you can hardly figure how to cut open in the first place. The whole ‘beauty is skin deep’ cliché applies just as well to produce as it does to those mean girls from high school. I realize that not everyone has a local farm, but if you are so lucky, you should support it. I guarantee you will meet some wonderful people and happy vegetables.
This is the green salad that you make for people who think green salads are boring. The specks of pomegranate add a touch of tang, the bright nubs of tender fall squash, a crunch of nut, and the dressing has a grown up depth of cider and dijon. Butternut is far from an ugly squash, but it is accessible and perfect here. I passed this recipe on to a few friends when they asked for side dish recommendations; I promise people will remember this salad. The components were inspired by Ina, and then altered to be absolutely everything I love in a salad.
BUTTERNUT SALAD WITH CIDER DRESSING // Serves 6
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
I recommend plating this salad either on a long platter or individually, otherwise all of the goods will end up at the bottom of the bowl.
3 Cups Baby Spinach
3 Cups Butter Lettuce
2 lbs. Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into 1’ cubes
½ Cup Toasted Pistachios
1 Cup Pomegranate Seeds
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tbsp. Real Maple Syrup
Block of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes
¾ Cup Apple Cider
2 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tbsp. Shallots
2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1/4 Cup Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Oven to 425’
1. In a rimmed baking pan, toss the squash cubes in the oil and syrup. Sprinkle with salt, red pepper flakes and fresh ground pepper. Roast on the top rack for 20 minutes. Remove and cool.
2. While the squash are baking, bring the apple cider, cider vinegar and shallots to a boil in a small saucepan. Boil for about 8 minutes to reduce and remove from the heat. Whisk in the dijon and a pinch of salt and pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Allow dressing to cool.
3. In a large bowl add the baby spinach, butter lettuce, and toss with a small amount of the dressing. Place tossed salad on a serving platter and distribute the pomegranate seeds, pistachios and then the squash pieces on top. Drizzle a bit more dressing on the squash and shave large pieces of fresh parmesan on top.