We had friends over on Saturday for a Please Help Me Clean Out The Fridge dinner. Between a cookbook shoot (coming next fall!) and filming new YouTube episodes (coming next week!), my already-overtaxed kitchen spaces have been groaning at the seams. As someone who weirdly delights in an empty fridge — my version of a clean desk, clear mind — I needed to clean the slate before starting on anything new. Fortunately, some friends selflessly stepped up to the plate and we now have two fewer lasagnas, one less mega-pie, and one fewer neglected winter squash holding up progress.
With the latter, I made this salad and immediately wondered why I don’t do it more often. It feels like the epitome of late fall to me, the kind of thing I can never resist on a lunch menu because isn’t it wonderful when someone else has already gone through the trouble of roasting squash? But here’s the benefit of making it at home: It’s exactly right. No wilted lettuce has snuck in with the mix. No sleepy, flavorless pepitas fall to the bottom of the bowl. And the dressing is special. If we’re going to have the oven on anyway, we might as well wrap a couple shallots in foil, add them to the tray, roast them until tender, then blend them with sherry vinegar and olive oil into something exceptional. I first shared this dressing in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and still find it perfect with roasted vegetables. You get the aroma and gentle sweetness of caramelized onions but the brightness of a vinaigrette and it complements everything else here — squash, pepitas, goat cheese, and pomegranate — perfectly. I like this salad most of all with kale, but in the spirit of using what I’ve got, there’s a mix here. This would be lovely as part of a holiday spread but have absolutely no trouble finishing half of it for a solo lunch.
A few events/bits of news:
- Cookbook gifts: For holiday gifting, I’m excited to work with The Strand Bookstore again on personalized signed copies of my two cookbooks! I’ll be signing custom orders—you tell us what you’d like me to write and for whom, and we’ll make it happen. There are two deadlines this year, one for Hanukah and one for Christmas (because Hanukah is so early). For those who need to receive the book by Hanukah, the deadline is this Wednesday (11/10). If you need the gift by Christmas, the deadline is Thursday (12/2). Please place your order directly on The Strand’s website using these links: Order The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Order Smitten Kitchen Every Day. Thank you!
- Do you watch Taste The Nation with Padma Lakshmi on Hulu? Tomorrow night, 11/4, the second season, a holiday focused one, premieres and you might spy a little family Hanukah feast at my apartment. The episode is focused on my neighborhood, the Lower East Side, with many other local favorites and I can’t wait to see it. [Details]
- Next Tuesday, 11/9, I’ll be chatting with Mayukh Sen about his book, Taste Makers, at Books are Magic in Brooklyn. There will be limited in-person tickets and the event will also be broadcast for remote viewing. [Details]
- Last week, in celebration of the re-issue of the late Laurie Colwin‘s essay collections, Home Cooking (Amazon, Bookshop, More Indies) with a new foreword by Ruth Reichl, and More Home Cooking (Amazon, Bookshop, More Indies) with a new foreword from me, I chatted with Ruth Reichl, Stephanie Danler, and Kerry Diamond. You can watch it here.
6 months ago: Quick, Easy Salsa
1 year ago: Bialy Babka
2 years ago: White Bean Soup with Crispy Kale
3 years ago: Sunken Black Forest Cake
4 years ago: Bakery-Style Butter Cookies
5 years ago: Broken Pasta with Pork Ragu
6 years ago: Baked Potatoes with Wild Mushroom Ragu and Twinkie Bundt
7 years ago: Homemade Harissa and Cauliflower Cheese
8 years ago: Potato and Broccolini Frittata
9 years ago: Butternut Squash Salad with Farro and Pepitas and Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones
10 years ago: Pear, Cranberry, and Gingersnap Crumble
11 years ago: Cauliflower and Parmesan Cake and Spiced Applesauce Cake
12 years ago: Cauliflower with Almonds, Raisins and Capers and Silky, Decadent Old-School Chocolate Mousse
13 years ago: Meatballs and Spaghetti and Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad and Pink Lady Cake
14 years ago: Pumpkin Bread Pudding and Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup
15! years ago: Pumpkin Muffins and Easiest Baked Macaroni-and-Cheese
Fall Bliss Salad
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1-pound (455 grams) honeynut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced thin (¼-inch)
- 2 medium (4 ounces) shallots, halved lengthwise and peeled
- 8 ounces (225 grams) kale or spinach leaves, torn or chopped into bit-sized pieces
- 3 tablespoons (45 grams) sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar, plus more to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon smooth dijon mustard
- 1 to 2 tablespoons water, as needed
- 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
- 2 ounces (55 grams) soft goat cheese (chèvre), crumbled
- 1/2 cup (60 grams) toasted, salted pepitas (see Note)
Place shallot halves on a square of foil and drizzle lightly with olive oil and kosher salt. Tightly seal foil around them into a little packet and place on the baking sheet with squash.
Roast squash and shallots for 15 minutes, until the squash is lightly brown underneath. Flip the squash pieces and carefully open the foil packet with the shallots. Return the tray to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the squash is evenly brown. The shallot will not be brown or look caramelized, but will be tender, which is all we need. If you’d like, you can return the open foil packet to the oven for another 10 minutes for more color and flavor, but I rarely bother.
Make the dressing: In a blender or food processor, whiz warm shallots with 4 tablespoons olive oil until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. With the machine running, add dijon mustard and 3 tablespoons vinegar, blending until smooth. Season well with salt and pepper, blending again. Taste and adjust with more vinegar, salt, and pepper as needed. If the dressing is very thick, you can thin it with 1 to 2 tablespoons water.
Do ahead: The recipe can be paused here until needed. The squash and dressing are perfectly delicious at room temperature.
To serve: In a large wide bowl or salad plate, toss greens with half the dressing and season with additional salt and pepper. Arrange roasted squash over the greens, fanning out slices if you wish. Sprinkle salad with pomegranate, goat cheese, and pepitas and drizzle some of the remaining dressing over, to taste. Serve right away, with extra dressing on the side.
Pepitas: Sometimes I buy pepitas that are crackly-crisp and wonderful, sometimes, even when labeled roasted, they seem flat and almost stale. When the latter happens, I warm them in a small skillet with 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon butter, salt and red pepper flakes to taste over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they’re a shade darker and smell nutty. Set aside until you’re ready to use them.
Preparing butternut/honeynut squash: I’ve got a TikTok demo here.
Lettuce: I love kale or spinach here, but used what I had: a 4-ounce package of baby kale, a few ounces of red endive, thinly sliced, and a handful of green oak leaf lettuce. Sturdier lettuces hold up better if the salad needs to rest.