Roasted Beet and Winter Squash Salad with Walnuts

As I mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been hell-bent on discovering the perfect salad for each season of the year, so that in essence that I have a “go-to salad” when I have a yearning for something healthy (and appealing to the eye). This past summer, I crafted Yotam Ottolengthi’s Watermelon-Feta salad and in the fall combined roasted root vegetables with a trio of herbs to muster up this autumn salad. And with the passing of the winter solstice just a few days ago, I figure I might as well get a head start on my “go-to” for the winter season.

After googling and perusing a rather wide array of winter salads, I finally whittled it down to the one. I haven’t used a NY Times recipe in a good, long while and this one comes from the “archives” of 2012. Martha Rose Shulman’s “Recipes for Health” column in the Health section of the NY Times fails to disappoint. Needless to say, I’m a FAN.

As with most of the recipes I post, this one caught my eye initially because of the picture. Highlighted in this salad are beets and butternut (or kabocha) squash. I read somewhere that butternut squash is technically considered a “fruit”, like all members of the gourd family, because they contain seeds. When examining the health benefits of squash, this dense gourd is low in fat, contains ample amounts of potassium, and is heart-healthy due to the dietary fiber as well as the folate found within. Personally, I find that both the taste and texture of butternut squash, especially after it is roasted is unparalleled. Beets, on the other hand, also provide many health benefits. Vitamins A, B, & C, as well as potassium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, fiber are all found within beets (and in high quantities!). Beets have a low calorie content and despite boasting large amounts of sugar, at least the sugar is released gradually into the body so your system processes them quicker than something like chocolate. The best part about beets is that you can cook the greens (or sauté with a bit of garlic) over stovetop and add them to whatever dish you’re making, as this recipe suggests.

This recipe calls for herbs in the way of either parsley, mint, tarragon, and/or chives. Because I — not surprisingly — enjoy dealing with herbs from start (chopping and dicing) to finish (garnishing), I opted for all four. The walnuts give this salad a textured boost and although optional, I strongly recommend adding some crumbled feta prior to serving. I added a few cranberries, as it makes it look festive paired with the beet greens and chopped herbs. Happy Holidays!

Roasted Beet and Winter Squash Salad with Walnuts
Recipe taken from Martha Rose Shulman’s “Recipes for Health” column
Yields 6 servings

2 pounds kabocha or butternut squash
1 bunch beets, with greens
2 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small garlic clove, minced or put through a press
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons walnut oil
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts (about 1 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, mint, tarragon, chives

Roast the beets. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the greens off of the beets, leaving about 1/2 inch of the stems attached. Scrub the beets and place in a baking dish or ovenproof casserole. Add about 1/4 inch water to the dish. Cover tightly with a lid or foil, and bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the beets are tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. If not using right away, refrigerate in a covered bowl.

Line another roasting pan with foil or parchment and brush with olive oil. Peel the squash and cut in 1/2-inch thick slices. Toss with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil and salt to taste and place on the baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until lightly browned and tender. You can do this at the same time that you roast the beets, but watch carefully if you need to put the baking sheet on a lower shelf. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil while you stem and wash the greens. Add salt to the water, and blanch the greens for 1 minute or until tender. Transfer the greens to a bowl of cold water, then drain and squeeze out the water. Chop coarsely.

Mix together the vinegars, garlic, salt, pepper, the remaining olive oil and the walnut oil. When the beets are cool enough to handle, trim the ends off, slip off their skins, cut in half, then slice into half-moon shapes. Toss with half the salad dressing. In a separate bowl, toss the roasted squash with the remaining dressing.

Place the greens on a platter, leaving a space in the middle. Arrange the beets and squash in alternating rows in the middle of the platter. Sprinkle on the fresh herbs and the walnuts. If desired, sprinkle on crumbled feta. Serve.

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