Despite the mild temperatures many of us have been experiencing so far this year (not complaining!), it’s still technically winter, and we’ve been attempting to cook more seasonal foods. We have a favorite butternut squash recipe, so when we saw Chef Zane Holmquist cooking this winter squash dish on the Today Show, we thought it would be an interesting new spin on an old favorite. We were not disappointed. The squash flavor goes really well with the sweet apple, peppery arugula and rich, complex cranberry vinaigrette. The salad itself is pretty simple, with butternut squash (or some other winter squash), apple, arugula, toasted pumpkin seeds and salt & white pepper. The cranberry vinaigrette is made with cranberry juice, dried cranberries, shallot, lemon juice, canola oil, fresh thyme, green Tabasco sauce and salt & white pepper. We may not be breaking out the winter coats, gloves and scarves this season, but we’ll definitely make this side dish another time or two before “winter” ends.
To make the vinaigrette, heat 1.5 cups of cranberry juice and 1/2 of a minced shallot over medium high heat and cook until the liquid is significantly reduced by more than half the original amount.
Combine the reduced cranberry/shallot mixture with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 3/4 cup canola oil, about 6 drops green Tabasco sauce, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper and blend all the ingredients together. (We used our hand-held immersion blender, which is a great kitchen tool.) Then stir in the chopped dried cranberries and fresh thyme.
Toasted pumpkin seed FAIL. It was a failure on several levels — cooked too long at too high heat, and the seeds still in the shells were not so good in the finished dish. But you never know until you try. The original recipe calls for toasting the seeds in the oven at 425 degrees for 6-8 minutes, which didn’t really work for us.
We toasted another batch at 375 degrees for the same amount of time, which worked out better. But we found that the shells were still a little tough and distracted from the other ingredients in the finished salad. We recommend using shelled pumpkin seeds, or if you can’t find them, try shelled sunflower seeds. Toasting optional.
Dice the squash into bite-sized pieces and place in boiling water until tender — 2-3 minutes.
Remove the squash from the boiling water and place it in ice-cold water to halt the cooking process.
Then drain the cooled squash.
Combine the squash, diced apples, pumpkin seeds, chopped arugula and a pinch of salt and white pepper. The original recipe calls for pouring a little Sprite over the diced apples before adding them to the salad, in order to keep them from getting brown. We skipped that step and just chopped up the apple right before assembling the salad.
Toss the salad with the cranberry vinaigrette, slowly adding the vinaigrette until the salad is dressed to your liking.
We served the salad with roasted turkey breast, and the flavors came together into a mini-Thanksgiving meal. The salad would also be good paired with roast pork or chicken.