This may, quite possibly, be the tastiest, and definitely one of the prettiest, fall/winter salads I have ever had. The inspiration for this came from one of our favorite restaurants in Nashville, Urban Grub. This salad was on their menu a few weeks ago. Of course, I had to order it. When this beauty came out from the kitchen, everyone ooh’ed and ahh’ed over it. And then we tasted it. Oh. My.
The thing about this salad is that it is fresh and substantial. It is definitely not your light, summer salad. Roasting the butternut squash gives it a wonderful oven-fried texture, and the caramelization gives it almost a candied quality. The cranberries are nice and chewy and taste sweet, but at the same time, a bit tart. I know that doesn’t sound like it makes a lot of sense. But if you have ever tasted a dried cranberry, you know what I am talking about. The heat in that little bit of jalapeño juice in the dressing really balances out all of the sweet things going on in the salad, without overpowering it.
However, the pièce de résistance in this gorgeous dish is the goat cheese. Oh. My. Goodness. It is the lushness that throws this salad right over the top. The goat cheese adds a tangy, rich creaminess that makes your tastebuds go into overdrive.
When I served this to my family as a meal, there was not a scrap left. My 11-year-old, who only recently began to eat SOME forms of vegetables without a big fuss (ok, ok, really it was only Romaine lettuce) actually asked me if I would make this meal again! Now, that’s what I call success!
Note: Times on this recipe assume the butternut squash is bought ready to go (peeled and diced). Peeling and dicing the butternut squash may add 10-15 minutes of prep time.
- 2 heads Romaine lettuce, torn or chopped into bite-size pieces
- 4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 3 TBSP cilantro, chopped
- ¼ c nuts, chopped (I like pecans, cashews, and Macadamia)
- 4 ounces cold goat cheese, crumbled
- Olive oil (enough to coat squash + ¼ c for dressing)
- 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2-3 tsp juice from pickled jalapenos (the jarred type)
- 1 ½ tsp honey
- Preheat oven to 425. Spread butternut squash out on an aluminum foil–covered cookie sheet. Tossed with olive oil and salt, to coat. Roast for 20 minutes, until the edges of the butternut squash and start turning brown. Remove and let cool.
- While the squash is roasting, make the dressing and the rest of the salad.
- Combine all of the dressing ingredients in an airtight container. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
- Combine the lettuce, cilantro, cranberries, and chopped nuts in a big salad bowl. When the squash is cooled, add to the salad. Toss with the dressing.
- Add cold, crumbled goat cheese. Serve with fresh bread.
Start by coating your butternut squash with olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. I HIGHLY recommend buying your squash cut and ready to go from the produce section at your marketplace. I have even used defrosted, frozen squash when fresh has not been available. It worked just fine. Butternut squash is a pain to cut, especially if you are not experienced with a big, sharp knife.
Roast the butternut squash at 425 for 20 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, assemble the salad by combining lettuce, cranberries, cilantro and nuts.
This is what the nuts should look like, chopped.
And combine the dressing ingredients in an airtight container and SHAKE!
This is how it should look.
Let the squash cool, then add to the salad, with the dressing. Toss everything together.
At the very end, when the salad is just about ready to go, take the goat cheese out of the refrigerator and crumble it with a fork. Add it to the salad and toss it gently into the salad.
Humbly take in the praise from anyone lucky enough to eat this deliciousness!