(Shalinee and I are not posting for The Swap this week; the week was just too overwhelming — we were both sick, K & O started their first week of their new school, we’re at the end of the semester at Lehigh [a crazy time of year for professors], there were minor crises of all varieties happening in our lives, etc. — we just never got it together to do Swap. So…instead I’m posting this!)
Spinach Salad with Warm Squash, Goat Cheese, and Glazed Pecans
This is our Current Favorite Salad for Fall/Winter! Seriously, it is so good! Braydon even says that it is the best salad he’s ever had in his entire life. No kidding! And I make a lot of fancy salads… so that is really saying a lot! A couple of years ago I was out to lunch at a pretty nice restaurant for a work meeting one day. I ordered a salad off the menu that was described as “Warm Spinach Salad with Winter Squash.” It turned out to be an absolutely fabulous salad. I can remember thinking, “Wow! This is probably one of the best salads I’ve ever had, and it would be even better with goat cheese!” I’ve remembered that salad ever since. Recently I was back at that restaurant for another lunch meeting. I had been so excited to order that salad again, but it turned out they had taken it off the menu. I became determined to re-create the salad at home, but with some of my own twists to make it substantial enough as a stand-alone dinner salad. For K, O, and M – at least at this point – a salad, no matter how substantial, is really not enough for dinner. So, for them I’ll make some sort of simple pasta to serve with this salad. But for Braydon and I, this salad can 100% hold its own as a salad worthy of dinner. With a glass of wine and a crusty baguette… seriously… it is so good! Try it!
First, flash-roast some butternut squash. You can buy a squash and dice it up… or, to make things super simple (like I do!), you can buy a container of pre-skinned, pre-diced fresh butternut squash in the produce section. I dump that container out onto a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle with just a tiny bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for about 10 minutes (or until soft and caramelizing) at 450.
While the squash is cooking, whip up some balsamic vinaigrette. Wisk 1/3 portion balsamic vinegar with 2/3 portion olive oil (i.e., if you’re going to make about a cup of dressing, use 1/3 cups of vinegar and 2/3 cup oil — more or less depending on how much dressing you want to have). Add salt and pepper to taste.
The only other things you need are: red onion (thinly sliced), goat cheese (crumbled), and some glazed pecans. You can make your own glazed pecans really easily by placing pecans, sugar, and cinnamon in a dry pan and cooking on the stove over med-high heat. I have done this many, many times. Stored in an air-tight container they will keep for a long time. However, you can also buy glazed pecans (of all sorts of varieties) in the grocery store. Recently we tried “Pecan Pie” flavored, and they were awesome (and went incredibly well in this salad)!
When the squash is cooked, place it immediately on a bed of fresh spinach. It will start to wilt some of the spinach, which is a good thing! Add the other ingredients, toss with the vinaigrette, and dig in. You’ll think you’ve gone to Fall-Winter-Salad-Heaven. DE-LISH!