Roasted Acorn Squash Salad

Squash is synonymous with fall for me, and this dish – adapted from Lydia’s Family Table – has quickly become a favorite. You will love the way your house smells from the roasting squash, and the subtle, contrasting flavors will dance upon your tongue. Then, there’s the health benefits. Acorn squash – part of the winter squash family – is rich in vitamins A, C and B6; full of phytonutrients which rid the body of toxins and can help prevent cancer; and a great source of fiber and potassium. Serves 4-6 (cut in half – one small squash for two servings).

For baking the squash:

  • 3 lbs acorn squash (1 large or 2 small ones)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt for dressing
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
  • 3 tbsp crumbled goat cheese

Reduced balsamic vinegar drizzle:

  • 2/3 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1-1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Either a branch of fresh rosemary with lots of needles OR two sprigs fresh thyme with lots of leaves (I’ve used each and love them both!)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°F. When hot, spread almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes, tossing once or twice, until light brown.

To prepare squash: Using a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife, strip off the peel from the squash ridges. Unless you are roasting a smooth squash like butternut, leaving some of the peel will help the squash to retain its shape. With a sharp heavy knife, cut the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out all the seeds and fibers. Trim the ends and cut squash into inch-thick slices. On a large baking sheet or in a large bowl, coat squash with 2 tbsp of oil, add salt and toss. Spread the pieces out to lie flat, not touching and bake about 35-40 minutes, turning halfway, until the squash is tender all the way through (poke with a fork to check) and nicely caramelized on the edges.

Balsamic vinegar: Pour the balsamic vinegar into a saucepan over moderate heat. Stir in the honey, drop in the bay leaf and herbs and bring to a low boil. Lower heat to a steady simmer, reducing the vinegar slowly – about 20 minutes – until the vinegar starts to appear syrupy. Make sure it does not stick to bottom of pan. Remove herbs (you can run through a small strainer into heat-proof cup or just scoop them out) and drizzle onto squash while still warm.

Assembling the salad: Let the squash slices cool on the pan until ready to serve. Arrange them on a large serving platter or on individual plates, with two or three slices per portion. Top with almond slivers, swirls of warm balsamic syrup and crumbles of cheese. (HINT: putting goat cheese in the freezer for five minutes makes it easier to slice!)

Syrup may be stored in the refrigerator, in a sealed container. To use, spoon the hard sauce into a bowl or heatproof measuring cup, and heat it slowly in a pan of hot water or at low level in the microwave. For a thinner consistency, stir in drops of hot water.

Buen provecho! Bon apetit! Eat up!

Resources

For the original recipe in its entirety: Epicurious.com
For more detailed health benefits and cooking suggestions: The World Healthiest Foods

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