Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Simply Delicious: Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

In December, when I went to visit Little Helen and go the White House, I took the train.  While it's still a 7 hour or so trip, Amtrak does all the driving and you can sit there and enjoy their new modern amenities, like wifi.

Because I was arriving later in the evening, Little Helen asked me what I thought I'd want to eat and I told her I'd let her know.  When I was about 30 minutes away I texted her and told her I wanted a salad and a glass of wine.

Once I got off the train, we walked to her condo to drop off my suitcase, then went right back out the door and walked to a restaurant in her neighborhood that even she had not been to, but had heard they had great salads. When we perused the menu we both remarked that while the selection of salads wasn't huge, they sounded unique and delicious and both of us appreciated that they gave the choice of a full size dinner salad or a smaller version.  We ended up ordering smaller salads and a small pizza to share.  We would later regret that we'd not gotten the large salads and skipped the pizza - it was good but the salads were fabulous.

Even while we were sitting there eating, I started making plans to try to recreate the salads at home.  When she came home for Christmas, Little Helen remembered that I had mentioned trying to do that and gave me some specialty vinegar in my stocking towards the cause.

When I started working on the re-creation, all I had to go on was their list of ingredients so I knew it could come out really good or it could be a disaster.  But I have faith in my cooking ability so I was willing to give it a whirl.  Here's the information I started with:

spinach, pumpkin seeds, parmesan,
pomegranates, cranberry vinaigrette

And here's how I did it step-by-step.  Now mind you this was in the course of an afternoon while I was doing some other cooking but all the prep to get to the finished dish was sooooo worth it!

1.  I bought a package of pre-cut butternut squash because it was on sale.  However, the squash in the salad was in cubes so I spent a couple minutes cubing it then I spread it on a cookie sheet, drizzled it with a bit of olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper and roasted it in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

2.  Spread 1 cup of pepitas (pumpkin seeds - that I had leftover from my fabulous annual Thanksgiving cake) on a pizza pan.  Drizzled them with 1 tsp. of olive oil and sprinkled them with sea salt.  Roasted at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Took them out of the oven and put on a paper towel covered plate to crisp up.  Pepitas are fun - you'll hear them snapping and popping for a while after you take them out of the oven.

3.  Prepped a pomegranate to get the arils out.  I've never done that before but went on You Tube and found a video.  You can find anything on You Tube I think.  Put the arils in a dish and set aside.

4.  Decided to make a homemade cranberry vinaigrette with the Cranberry Balsamic Vinegar Little Helen had given me.  Went online to find a recipe and I couldn't find one that I either had all the ingredients or that sounded good.  So I made one up.  Here's my recipe:

Helen's Cranberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar (I happened to have Cranberry Balsamic but it would be fine with regular)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
l/4 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, put through a press, or minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. finely ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons of water

Put everything in a bowl and whisk it or put it in a jar and shake it really well.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

When I was ready to assemble the salad for our dinner, I decided to make individual salads rather than combining everything - a great idea as we didn't end up with soggy leftovers and had the salad a couple more times last week!

For each salad bowl, I put a couple handfuls of baby spinach, then I sprinkled that with about 2 Tablespoons of the roasted pepitas.  Added about 3 Tablespoons of the pomegranate tendrils and 1/2- 3/4 cup of the butternut squash cubes.  Tossed it all a little then topped with shaved Parmesan.  Dressing was served on the side.  (All these measurements are approximate as I was just eyeballing it.)

Plus, I made this Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin in the crockpot to go with. The result? FAB-U-LOUS.  Mr. Helen said, "Some restaurant needs to have this on their menu."  Which made me laugh right out loud and then inform him that they did!  Of course, I have no idea if this is how they do it, but it's how it will go down in the Helen household.  

I'm telling you, try this salad, it's company worthy!

The next one I'm tackling - from the same restaurant:

baby arugula, walnuts, shallots
goat cheese fondue, orange vinaigrette

I'm off to You Tube to find out how to salt roast beets ;)


  1. I would like a reservation at YOUR restaurant! Holy yum, that salad sounds (and looks) fabulous!

  2. This sounds great and if Shelley has a table, make it a plus one because I'm coming too.

    You know I was thinking about you this weekend when the editor in chief in Runner's World had a column about the Christmas party in the White House. I bet you have read it yourself. While I read it I thought of you that you had been there too.

  3. That sounds unbelievably delicious! I have had a squash on my counter for awhile now. Now I know what to do with it! I have seen the pomegranate arils in the stores here, but I will have to search for cranberry vinaigrette

  4. wow I love ALL those things!!! Thanks for sharing Helen!

  5. I adore salads like that. Thanks for sharing. :)

  6. That looks delicious! When I am stumped sometimes on meal planning sometimes I google "thai restaurant menu" or "Italian restaurant menu" to get ideas!

    FYI, Trader Joe's sells pom seeds that are so worth the money - Hannah loves pom seeds and after trying to get them out of a fresh pom, I spent the extra money - and they last about a week in the fridge. :D

  7. What time is dinner I will be right over! That salad is right up my alley. I often have diced leftover oven roasted squash in my salads. So much yumminess Helen! I think I have everything in stock to make this - hmmmm. Thanks so much .

  8. Can I sit at the same table as Shelley and Fran??? This looks so delicious!

  9. I'm salivating!!! I think I almost licked the computer screen!

    If Shelley and Fran and Roz are sitting together we may as well make it a table for four!!!!

  10. <<>>
    (Im old school that way :0))


  11. This looks sooooo good. Added to my Pinterest board.

  12. Always looking for good healthy recipes! Thanks!

  13. Thank you for supporting me during my struggles.. I'm so grateful for everyone reaching out to me. :)