Monday, March 28, 2011

Ina's Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

A while back we had dinner at our friends Jenn and Ori's place. We ate wonderful Eataly pastas topped with San Marzano sauce, this salad, fantastic bread, creamy butter and pumpkin cupcakes with maple frosting. And now that we (finally!) have a dining table, it was my turn to host our friends, and their baby, for a birthday dinner this past Saturday night.  
I always get nervous about cooking meals for others, but everything turned out great. We started off with this butternut squash salad, then moved on to a three-mushroom lasagna in a bechamel sauce and concluded with one of the best desserts I think I've ever made-- a graham cracker crust cheesecake from Baked, Brooklyn (recipe to be posted shortly). There was red and white wine (just a glass for me as I'm a few weeks shy of my third trimester with baby number two), good conversation and a lot of laughs. Both of our kids fell asleep and we hung out till just after mid-night. It was a great way to spend a weekend night.
I was reluctant to post yet another Ina recipe, but this one was too good to pass up. 
The combination of sweet butternut squash, tart cranberries, peppery arugula and the crunch of toasted walnuts are wonderful!  Dress them with the warm cider vinaigrette and you're in business. I had so much left-over dressing (not sure why), that I made two more servings of the salad tonight and will use the remainder of the dressing on this week's salads. 
This salad is great for an early spring picnic or a late fall dinner, just make sure to assemble it right before eating.  

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette (Courtesy of Ina Garten, Back to Basics)
Serves 4
1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and 3/4-inch) diced
Good olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted (about 4-5 minutes in a fry pan on medium-low heat)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (In the photos I used the large side on a box grater. The next time I made this salad, I finely grated the cheese-- that's my preference going forward.)

1/2 extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
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