Roasted Acorn Squash Salad

serves: 4 to 6 servings

Lightly caramelized slices of roasted squash make a tasty and pretty salad, dressed up with toasted almonds, crumbled cheese and glistening swirls of reduced balsamic vinegar, one of my favorite condiments. Serve this as an antipasto, a first course, or a side dish. With roast meat or poultry, it can be a main course salad too. How about a Thanksgiving Leftover Salad with roast squash and roast turkey, with balsamic reduction and cranberry chutney? Any sweet-fleshed winter squash is suitable but I find the scalloped edges of acorn squash slices look especially nice.

ingredients

For Baking the Squash
3 pounds acorn squash, 1 large or 2 small ones
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt

For Dressing
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
⅛ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted in the oven or on a dry skillet
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, thickened for drizzling
2 tablespoons crumbled cheese, (optional)

directions


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. (As soon as it's hot, you can toast the slivered almonds for garnishing the salad: spread them on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes, shaking them up once or twice, until lightly colored and fragrant. Or toast them while the squash is roasting, or after.) To prepare acorn squash: With a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife, strip off the peel from the top of the ridges of the squash. You don't need to peel more than this: it will help the squash cook faster and looks nice too. (If you are roasting a smooth squash like butternut, remove all the peel.)

With a sharp, heavy knife, cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds and fibers. Place each half cut side down; trim the ends, then cut semi-circular slices of squash, all about one-inch thick.

Put all the pieces in a pile on a large baking sheet, preferably non-stick, or lined with parchment or a non-stick silicon baking mat. Drizzle the 2 tablespoons oil over and sprinkle on the salt and toss to coat the squash with the seasonings, then spread them out to lie flat, not touching.

Bake about 20 minutes, then flip the pieces over. Bake another 15 minutes or so, until the squash is just tender all the way through (poke with a fork to check) and nicely caramelized on the edges.

Assembling the Salad

Let the squash pieces cool on the pan until you're ready to serve. Arrange them - in a symmetrical design or in a casual pile - on a large serving platter or on individual salad plates, with two or three slices per portion.

Refresh them with drizzles of olive oil, sprinkles of salt. Scatter the almond slivers over and then streaks or swirls of warm balsamic reduction. Finally, crumble bits of cheese all over.