Winter Salad With Butternut Squash Croutons
- Servings: 4.
When it's mid-winter it doesn't mean we have to give up big flavors in our salads. In this recipe cubes of butternut squash are roasted until caramelized and tender. Once cooled to room temperature they're tossed with salad greens and pieces of crispy pancetta.
Any salad greens will work but the sweet cubes of squash go particularly well with dark greens like raw spinach, watercress, or arugula, each of which has a stronger flavor than most lettuces. The pancetta slices can be cooked right along side the squash. If you don't have pancetta, you can substitute bacon.
Finish with a mustard vinaigrette and if you like, a handful of toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or a crumble of goat cheese or feta.
- 1 medium to large butternut squash
- 4 slices pancetta or other bacon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Optional: ground chipotle powder
- 4 cups salad greens, washed and spun dry (baby spinach, watercress, arugula, romaine, or a mix of greens)
- 1/4 cup mustard vinaigrette (see below)
- Optional: 1/4 cup toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup crumbled goat or feta cheese
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Peel the squash, remove and discard the seeds, and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and about 6 grinds of black pepper and if you want a little contrast to the squash's sweetness, a pinch of ground chipotle. Using your clean hands, spread the cubes of squash into a single layer on the pan, making sure the olive oil, salt and pepper coat the squash pieces.
- Roast for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the cubes are tender and begin to brown. Using a spatula, turn the pieces two or three times while roasting so that they don't stick and to help them cook evenly.
- While the squash is roasting, place the pieces of pancetta on a rack in another small pan and cook until golden brown and crispy, about 25 minutes depending on the thickness of the slices. (Alternatively you can cook the pancetta in a skillet on top of the stove.) When done, transfer to a paper towel and let cool.
- Remove the squash pieces from the oven and let come to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
- Place the salad greens in a large salad bowl. Scatter the squash pieces on top of the greens and toss carefully (the squash will be soft and if you're not careful, they could just mush into the greens).
- Crumble the bacon on top of the salad and drizzle with the mustard vinaigrette. Toss one more time and serve immediately.
If you're adding the optional nuts or cheese, add these at the very end, after you've dressed the salad.
1 and 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 grinds of black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- In a small bowl combine the vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard. Using a fork or a small whisk, stir until combined and the salt dissolves.
- Add the olive oil and stir until emulsified.
- If you don't use the vinaigrette immediately, be sure to re-whisk it before adding to the salad because the oil and vinegar will separate once it sits for any amount of time.