*fall* in love with squash
from guest author Emily Nunn
My new friend Emily is “Salad CEO” over at The Department of Salad, a newsletter dedicated to, you guessed it, salad! Emily spent a long time as a magazine and newspaper journalist, often covering restaurants and food, first at the New Yorker magazine as the editor of Tables for Two and later at the Chicago Tribune. She wrote a book called “The Comfort Food Diaries,” but today, salad is Emily’s comfort food.
Be sure to subscribe to The Department of Salad for tons of gorgeous, entertaining, salad-centric content.
now let’s talk squash
From Caro: I love winter squash. Some people truly loathe winter squash, because it tastes “too squashy”. And even though I love it, I totally know what they mean. When squash isn’t cooked long enough, it has sort of a cloying, mucky, squashy taste. It is best, in my opinion, when roasted until it has delicious crispy golden-brown-verging-on-burnt edges.
My favorite squash in order are:
Delicata squash (small, easy to cut - here’s how!, fast-cooking)
Butternut squash (can be tricky to peel and cut - here’s how!, but once mastered, such a delightful winter veggie)
Honeynut squash (basically just a teeny version of butternut, much easier to handle and delicious)
Acorn squash (tricky to cut, I never try to peel it, I just scoop the flesh out after roasting it)
Kabocha squash (like a cross between a pumpkin and a sweet potato, really delicious when roasted until caramelized, but really hard to cut)
but how do I cook it?
All of these squash can be cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges or cubes, tossed in olive oil and your desired seasoning, and roasted on 425°F for 30 to 40 minutes until tender on the inside and crisp on the outside.
and now, an absolutely delightful recipe from emily…
From Emily: I absolutely love butternut squash. It’s so unassuming! The dull-beige peel and dorky shape do not begin to hint at the treasure inside, which can be used in so many ways. Roasting it in chunks or thick slices has always been my favorite method of cooking it, but turning the squash into chips, which I’ve done here in the oven, makes it ethereally delicious.
I used my mandoline on the squash the first time I made this dish, but I liked it much better when I hand-sliced it. (You’ll use the long end of the squash, saving the seed end for another use). Hand-slicing made the pieces naturally uneven, so they became toasty crisp in some spots and soft and luscious in others. You may find the chips a bit of a pain to make (I did not), but I guarantee you they are more than worth it. I’m going to start making them all the time as a snack.
Otherwise, this salad is a breeze. I bought some good aged gouda, totally worth the splurge, and rather than mixed “field” greens (where is this field from which everyone gathers their greens?), which always disappoint me, I wanted some extra bitterness, so I used what I had: red leaf lettuce, a handful of parsley leaves, a few leaves of pretty radicchio for extra bite, and some other soft greens left over from another recipe, still crisp and sassy recipe in my fridge.
I thought about adding some pickled or frizzled red onion, or even slices of Granny Smith apple, but once I had this salad where I wanted it, I decided that would be gilding a beautifully simple lily.
crispy butternut squash salad with aged gouda and pecans
inspired by the “Lettuce Salad” from Cape Cod’s Brewster Fish House
These quantities are definitely just a guide, but beware: if you use too much delicious cheese or too many lovely nuts, you run the risk of making the salad too rich.
1 large butternut squash (use the long neck only; save the rounded seed portion for another use), peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced (but not too thinly or too evenly; you can relax) Caro here: might I suggest using the rest of the squash to make Butternut Squash Farrotto or One-Pot Cheesy Sausage and Butternut Squash Orzotto)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (for coating squash slices)
salt and pepper
5 big handfuls mixed greens
4 ounces aged gouda, shaved with a vegetable peeler (or shaved then crumbled), a bit over a half a cup
1/2 cup pecan halves, lightly toasted then broken using your actual hands
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste (start with a good pinch of salt)
Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C)
Place the sliced squash in a big bowl and toss with enough olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) to coat evenly. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper and toss again.
Spread the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer (use two baking sheets if you’re making a ton of chips, they should not overlap because they’ll steam instead of getting crisp). Sprinkle the squash lightly on one side with smoked paprika.
Roast until the squash slices begin to turn dark brown or black at the edges, about 30 minutes, checking occasionally and turning them over halfway through. You may need to remove some of the smaller ones earlier because they’ll brown faster. Again: this sounds like a drag. It’s worth it.
While the squash is roasting, make the dressing. Combine all of the ingredients (6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, a big pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper) in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake until emulsified and creamy. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.
When the squash has cooled, arrange 5 big handfuls of mixed greens on a large platter. Top with 4 ounces shaved gouda, 1/2 cup toasted pecans, and the cooled butternut squash chips. Drizzle with desired amount of the dressing (not all of it! start with about 1/3, then add more as desired).
Show off your gorgeous salad at the table. Toss, taste for dressing, add more if desired, and serve. Serve any remaining dressing on the side.
Make it a meal: To keep it vegetarian, I’d roast some chickpeas along with the butternut squash. For my meat lovers, serve this salad alongside any meat. To keep things simple, buy a rotisserie chicken and call it a night.
Butternut squash: Butternut squash is really the best squash for creating crispy chips like this. Sweet potato is the next best substitute.
Olive oil: Any neutral tasting oil such as avocado or grapeseed
Smoked paprika: This just adds a little nice smoky flavor, but it’s not entirely necessary. A little garlic powder would be great too!
Mixed greens: Emily loved having some bitter radicchio and butter lettuce in her mix, but encourages you to use whatever you have on hand! The squash and cheese are the stars.
Aged gouda: Any aged cheese such as white cheddar, parm, or manchego
Pecans: Walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts would all be great here. Caro thinks a spiced candied pecan or walnut would be fab.
Extra-virgin olive oil: Best to use EVOO here! But any oil will work in a pinch.
Apple cider vinegar: Lemon juice, or another clear vinegar
Dijon mustard: 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard, or yellow mustard will even work in a pinch.
Maple syrup: Honey, agave, or a pinch of sugar