How happy are we when Autumn arrives here in the South? I’m really happy! Coming from the Northwest originally, and specifically Central Oregon, where the Autumn days are pleasantly warm and the nights are generally very cool (we’re talking in the 30’s and 40’s) with no humidity -- I am especially grateful for the cooler air and decrease in humidity!
But it’s not just the shift in the weather that excites me, it’s also the return of some of the best Fall dishes and flavors that begin to make an appearance once again. Below is one of my favorites. A very festive, colorful, Fall salad. The perfect complement to most meals and a winner every time. All the flavors are perfect together!
If I’m being honest, the thing that ties this salad altogether is the Warm Apple Cider Bacon Vinaigrette! Give it a try. I think you’ll love it. It’s so good and will be a great side for the Holidays!
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Apple Cider Bacon Vinaigrette
-- 1 16oz bag Spinach
-- 2 cups Butternut Squash cubed
-- 1 cup Pecan halves
-- ¼ cup plain goat cheese crumbled
-- 1 Shallot sliced
-- ¼ cup of pomegranate seeds.
-- ½ cup of Blackberries (opt)
-- Warm Apple Cider Bacon Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Butternut Squash: Peel and cube the butternut squash. Toss in olive or avocado oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until tender but not super soft. Taste, add additional salt and pepper to taste and continuing roasting in 5 minute intervals, if needed, to desired doneness.
*you can also purchase Butternut Squash already cubed from most produce sections.
Pecans: Toast pecans in a glass baking dish. 375 in 2-3 minute intervals, tossing every 2-3 minutes until the pecans are browned and fragrant. Usually a max of 10-12 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Crispy Shallots: *The salad can be made without the crispy shallots and it will be just as delicious. However -- I think the shallots add a great layer of flavor and texture.
Slice shallots into thin rings and separate. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Oil is ready when you test a shallot ring in the oil and it immediately sizzles. In batches, fry the shallot rings in oil until light brown, continuously moving the shallots around in the oil to keep from over cooking. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Pomegranates: De-seed a pomegranate or buy seeds ready to go.
Blackberries: For garnish!
Goat Cheese: cut/crumble for sprinkling
I like using a large platter for this salad. It allows for everyone to get a little bit of all the ingredients. As you layer, use as much or as little of the ingredients as you like. Plenty of freedom to be creative.
Spinach, roasted butternut squash, pomegranate seeds, crispy shallots, pecans, and goat cheese. Add berries for garnish.
Just before serving, drizzle with Warm Apple Cider Bacon Vinaigrette.
Warm Apple Cider Bacon Vinaigrette
Tips: I like Dijon but used about half of what this recipe calls for -- personal taste. Some apple cider vinegars can be extra potent so it might work best to start with a little less and add more if you want more tang and zing. Double for a larger crowd.
-- 4 strips thick cut bacon
-- 2-3 cloves garlic peeled and minced
-- 3 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
-- 3 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
-- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
-- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
-- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Place the bacon in a medium saucepan over low heat and stir until some of the fat begins to render from the bacon. Raise the heat to medium and cook the bacon, stirring frequently, until it is crispy. Transfer the crisp bacon to a paper towel lined plate, keeping all of the fat drippings in the pan. Cool and crumble the bacon. OR roast bacon strips in a glass baking dish at 385 for 20-30 minutes until crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate, cool then crumble, and transfer drippings to your sauté pan.
2. Return the pan to the burner. Add the garlic, swirl, and immediately add the remaining dressing ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook for 1 minute, or until the dressing coats the back of a spoon. It should leave a trail when your finger is drawn through the dressing on the back of the spoon. Stir in the bacon.
3. Use immediately or transfer to a heat proof jar with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, gently reheating and stirring before serving.
Here’s to Fall! Enjoy!