For some reason I’ve never been a big squash person. In fact, the first time I even tried or touched a butternut squash was last fall when I showed up early for a party and my friend put me to work peeling and cubing one (which, by the way, is not an easy thing to do for a squash novice).
But this year I was determined to get into the kitchen and get familiar this gorgeous winter fruit. And I’m happy to report that I’ve created three amazing recipes, this colorful and simple salad being the first.
First you want to start by removing the skin and cubing your squash. If you have a heavy-duty peeler, use that. Otherwise, stick with this method. It’s tricky at first since the skin is tough, but after my second try, I was nearly a pro.
To get the squash tender and flavorful, simply toss it in olive oil and a little salt and pepper and roast. Not for long either! It only takes about 15-20 minutes in a 400-degree F (204 C) oven.
The next element of this salad is pecans, which can easily be prepared while the squash is roasting. Simply toast raw pecans in a skillet, remove and add olive oil and brown sugar, and then add the pecans back in a toss! It’s the easiest and most fool-proof method to perfect toasty, caramelized pecans every time.
The only thing left to do after that is add in some spinach, cranberries and toss it all together with a little more olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper.
This salad is so simple and delicious, perfect for fall gatherings or even as a healthy and filling take-along lunch for work or school since it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. In fact, it’s best when served warm.
I suspect you’ll love the mix of textures and flavors here, especially how the balsamic adds a nice acidity to balance the sweetness. Enjoy!
- 1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 3-4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- Sea salt + black pepper
- 1/4 cup raw pecans
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 cups baby spinach or arugula, chopped
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- optional: 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C) and position a rack in the center of the oven.
- Toss butternut squash cubes in 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp sea salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until just tender. You don’t want it to get mushy, just tender.
- While roasting, prepare your pecans by heating a medium skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add pecans and toss or stir until toasty and fragrant, being careful not to burn. Remove from skillet.
- To the same skillet add 1 Tbsp olive oil (or butter) and 2 Tbsp brown sugar and stir to combine. Then add pecans back in plus a pinch of salt and toss for a minute or two until fully coated and fragrant. Transfer to a plate to cool, spreading to make sure they don’t stick together.
- Chop or loosely tear your greens and add to a serving bowl along with the cranberries. Once butternut squash is done, toss it right into the bowl along with the pecans.
- Lastly, add remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional) and toss. Add more salt or pepper if desired. Serve immediately. If not vegan, goat or Gorgonzola cheese would be a brilliant addition.