Daylight savings is hours away, and while we all can’t wait to gain an extra hour of sleep, that also means football is one more hour away! Last week we were feeling LAZY, but this week, Chef Nick has returned to give us a Fall-back salad recipe that will satisfy your fall-flavor cravings without filling you up on calories (we care about your health here, see?)! I loveeeee a fruity-nutty-cheesy salad! I love the way a soft cheese plays off salty seeds, and the pop of flavor a fruit can bring. I used to work at a pizza place in college during my breaks and in order to not eat pizza daily (or else I’d never be able to play lacrosse) the chef there taught me how to make really great salads that remind me exactly of the one Chef Nick has prepared for us today! Ever since those days at the restaurant, I get so excited to make/eat a gorgeous non-boring salad. Note the tips at the end because although this recipe is vegetarian, a quick add of rotisserie chicken can be a real game changer in my house! Chef Nick, take it away…
-1 package pre-cut butternut squash
-10-14oz package of watercress
-4oz goat cheese (whole, not crumbled)
-1/4 cup dried cranberries
-1/2 cup nut and seed mix (OPTIONAL)
-1/2 cup Apple Cider Vin (OPTIONAL)
-Preheat oven to 425 degrees-
Step 1: ROAST the squash. Cut down the butternut squash a little before tossing with 1t of our trusted pantry friend apple-pie spice, (or pumpkin spice, or just cinnamon) some olive oil and Natures seasoning (or salt and pepper). Line a sheet pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Arrange the seasoned squash in a single layer on your sheet pan for maximum browning and caramelization. Roast for 25-30 minutes depending on how large you cut the squash. Cool completely in the fridge before use or at least to room temp, I like it either way for this Fall-favorite.
✅NOTE: the finished squash should be fork tender but not mushy, slightly brown on top and completely brown/crisp on the bottom. Allow it to cool about 5 minutes and start lifting them off of pan making sure not to scrape very hard. The caramelization creates a sweet and savory flavor that is just perfect with goat cheese.
Step 2: CRUMBLE your goat cheese by hand. Sure, you can buy already crumbled goat cheese but don’t. It’s always super dry and flavorless. One of the most important parts of this salad is a decent-quality goat cheese. The creaminess of the cheese and savory-ness of the squash are perfect partners in the salad so please don’t mess it up.
Step 3: HYDRATE the cranberries. Anyone can toss some dried fruit into a salad but not many people take the extra step to make it pop. Simply soaking the dried cranberries (or any other dried fruit) in a little hot water for 5-10 minutes adds- an entirely new dimension to it. This sweet-tart little fruit transforms from a chewy little nugget to a juicy and flavorful surprise in minutes. Try it out, you won’t be disappointed.
Step 4: CHOOSE your base for the salad. Whether you are serving this salad family style or in individual bowls, it’s important to follow some pretty simple assembly guidelines. Always start with the base (I usually serve platter salads undressed until the last second when I drizzle it over the top). Then move to your heavier items, followed by lighter ones and finally finish with dressing. Today I grabbed watercress as my base because I think it holds its own against the other strong flavors in this salad. Crisp, peppery, and a little spicy, watercress is a lot like arugula but with a little more attitude. If you aren’t sure about the flavor, try using baby spinach or regular spring-mix, just as good, but the real focus here is that perfectly roasted butternut squash.
Step 5: ASSEMBLE the salad. Once the base is established, add a nice bed to the platter or bowl, making sure to mound up to the center. Now add your heavier items like the cheese and squash evenly. Now drain the cranberries well and sprinkle on top but try one first and taste the difference 🏻. Now it’s time to add any favorite nuts or seeds (sunflower kernels, pumpkin seeds, walnuts etc.)! These are all great additions and totally optional at this point but I really think it helps round out salad with a little crunch and texture. I got a mixture of all of the above and we loved it. Drizzle with some Apple Cider Vinaigrette (or any salad dressing you like).
✅NOTE: not only does this Fall-favorite stand out great on its on as a side, try making it the main attraction by adding some of your favorite Rotisserie chicken. Just pull the meat off the whole chicken while it’s still warm and mix into the salad for a quick and tasty dinner or lunch the next day. Yum
Apple Cider Vinaigrette
-2t Dijon mustard
-2t apple cider vinegar
-3T olive oil
Add all these ingredients into a container with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well, until emulsified and serve immediately (this dressing will separate after about 10-15 min, but you can just shake it up before each use).
✅NOTE: this recipe is perfect to serve 2 people. Double the recipe to serve on a salad for 4-6 people or to have some saved for another day. Don’t forget to shake well before each use!
It’s a Buff Chick kind of Sunday at my house this week! But I’m def making this salad sometime in the very near future!!!