Allez, Cuisine! Arugula, Beet and Butternut Squash Winter Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Claire Littlefield and Emma Ellis

Even if you are the kind of person that thinks salad is an inspiring meal, chances are that you associate such an optimal salad with summer. During the winter, and in particular the winter in Hamilton, it seems impossible that any vegetables could be available, let alone desirable, and we all end up subsisting on meat and cheese diets like a bunch of medieval peasants.

We’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. A lot of vegetables that are in season during the winter, like the butternut squash and beets used in this recipe, make delicious and substantial additions to salad. Like most salads, this recipe is mostly about assembling ingredients, but there are two slightly more advanced components worth mentioning. The first is roasting the butternut squash, which we detailed in our “Butternut Squash and Kale Hash” article, but for those of you who don’t feel like hunting for it, here’s the summary:

The most straightforward way to deal with the squash is to peel, halve, seed and cube it. However, this can be difficult to pull off if your kitchen equipment isn’t up to snuff. To make things easier on yourself, you can simply cut it in half, roast it un-peeled and scoop out the squash when it’s done, or even just roast it whole and cut, seed and scoop it when it’s cooked.

The second (slightly) more technical aspect is creating the balsamic vinaigrette. It’s a pretty simple process of whisking together ingredients, it’s versatile, it’s much healthier than the stuff out of the bottle and it’s delicious. The 3:1 oil-to-vinegar ratio is the backbone of most vinaigrettes, so this general formula is a great one to have in your back pocket.

The vinaigrette is excellent when paired with peppery arugula greens (which are also in season this time of year) and the subtly sweet beets and squash. Together, they create a light and hearty dish that is perfectly complemented by tangy goat cheese, dried cranberries and crunchy almond slivers. Whether you’re trying to seem sophisticated or are just adding variety (and nutrients) to your week, this winter salad will do the trick.

 

Ingredients:

Salad:

1 bag of arugula greens

? butternut squash

1 15 oz can of beets

Slivered almonds

Goat cheese crumbles

Dried cranberries

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Vinaigrette:

? cup balsamic vinegar

? cup olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard (or other good quality mustard)

Salt and pepper

Servings: 4-6

Process:

1. The first step is roasting the squash, which needs to be done well ahead of your serving time to give the squash a chance to cool down. It’s a good idea to do this step the night before and then store your squash in the refrigerator.

2. To roast the butternut squash, first peel it, cut it in half and scrape out the seeds. When the seeds and stringy pulp are completely removed, cut the squash into cubes. Toss the cubes in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a 400-degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until they are fork tender.

3. When you’re ready to assemble the salad, rinse the beets, cut them into bite-sized cubes or slices and set aside.

4. To make the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl, stirring until the salt is completely dissolved and the mustard is incorporated. Next, gradually add in the oil while whisking constantly. The other option is to transfer the mixture to a container with a tight-fitting lid and shake to combine.

5. Add the arugula, squash, beets, slivered almonds, goat cheese crumbles and dried cranberries to a large bowl. Drizzle on the dressing. Toss until the greens are evenly coated and serve.