The vernal equinox last Friday heralded the beginning of spring, but I think Boston missed that memo. It started snowing Friday night and kept it up just through the run I dragged my sister on Saturday morning, marking at least the third time that it’s resumed snowing when I thought for sure that winter had done its worst and fled.
Can this be the last snowstorm? For real this time?
This salad strikes a balance between the season I wish would hurry up and leave and the season that teases but never stays: winter produce on a bed of fresh greens, totally comforting without the need to hibernate afterward. I discovered this combination while making myself lunch at a restaurant where I used to work, fell in love, and then proceeded to eat it in every possible form as long as the butternut squash stayed on the menu. Salad? Yes. Sandwich? Of course. Delicately spread on slices of baguette? Don’t mind if I do.
However you decide to serve it up, the sweet squash, crisp apple, and creamy goat cheese go together like, well, hats and mittens. Boston and train trouble. Sunshine and sandals?
- 1 medium butternut squash, 2-3 lb., cut into 1-cm cubes
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 t. salt
- ½ t. pepper
- ½ t. smoked paprika
- 2 slices bacon
- 1 head red leaf lettuce
- 1 apple (I like Fuji or Gala here)
- 4 oz. goat cheese
- 1 shallot, cut into quarters
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 t. spicy mustard
- 1 t. honey
- 2 T. apple cider vinegar
- 2 T. bacon fat
- ¼ c. olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Toss the cubed squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and smoked paprika. Roast for 30 minutes, until soft and lightly browned.
- Cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crispy, about 10 minutes. Set aside, reserving bacon fat for dressing.
- While the squash roasts, wash and tear the lettuce, cut the apples into thin slices, and crumble the goat cheese and cooled bacon slices.
- Make the dressing: blend the shallot, garlic, mustard, honey, and vinegar in a blender until well combined, about 1 minute. Slowly drizzle in the bacon fat and olive oil to create an emulsion (the liquid should look cloudy and opaque). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Assemble the salad: top a good handful of lettuce with apple slices, squash, goat cheese, and bacon. Top with dressing.
- Use leftovers in sandwiches, as fancy appetizers in puff pastry shells, or in quesadillas. Repeat as necessary.