Autumn Salad

October 6, 2008


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When summer ceases, salads usually wane as well. I am determined to change that. It' s not so hard to do here in Texas, where there are twice as many growing seasons as up North, but last time I was visiting New England I conceived of a great autumnal mix that manages to lay lots of fall flavors onto a verdant summertime bed. It started with one of my favorite autumn arrivals: winter squash. I love winter squash any which way—but plain baked is best, I think. So I sliced a winter squash into half-inch thick disks, sprinkled each with cinnamon and baked them on 400 for about 15 or 20 minutes. When cool, I chopped them into 1-inch dices and set them aside to be mixed with three sliced pears, which I drizzled in agave and cinamon. (I saved the squash seeds to bake and season another time.) Meanwhile, I candied a cup of pecans by sautéing the coarsely chopped nuts with some vegetable oil and agave nectar. I placed the pears and squash on a bed of lettuce, which I tossed with with a basic olive oil vinaigrette that was just about 3:1 olive oil to red wine vinegar with a dash of lemon juice. I used romaine lettuce to stand up to the many ingredients, fearing that a more delicate leaf would wilt. When they were cool, I gently mixed the candied pecans in with the squash and pears then sprinkled a cup of dried cranberries on top. This salad was sweet, savory, crunchy and chewy all at once—and as colorful as fall foliage.

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