To balance indulgent eats with healthier choices during the holiday season, add this big salad for supper featuring roasted vegetables, cranberries and toasted walnuts topped with a zingy maple-dijon vinaigrette to your repertoire.

Butternut squash is the seasonal darling that takes eaters from autumn through the winter in a variety of tasty ways, whether baked and stuffed or as the basis for succulent soups and stews.

Whatever dish you’re making, roasting is a great way to coax the flavor from Cucurbita, and the starting point for this recipe. The sweet cubes come together with onions, cranberries, walnuts and a zesty dressing to create a delectable array of flavors and colors.

This salad makes a fun side, though for me it’s often a stand-alone supper when served over a bed of hearty greens, a “big salad” suitable for the colder months of the year. It works beautifully with fresh cranberries instead of dried, too:  Just roast alongside onions, perhaps with a bit of sugar, unless you want a punch of tartness.

Perhaps try adding white or cranberry beans for a protein and energy boost, or top with crumbled goat or blue cheese for a sumptuous finish. Make it your own, and enjoy this meal all season long.

A butternut squash salad is a nutritious and satisfying alternative to heavy holiday plates. Credit: Copyright 2016 P.K. Newby
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
Recipe type: Vegetarian
Serves: 4
  • 8 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 large onion, large chop (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary, finely minced
  • 1½ tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, separated
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to season
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • Chives, for garnish
  • 4 cups greens (kale, arugula, mustard, etc.) (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons walnut oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 475 F. Toast walnuts in oven while it is heating, about 5 minutes, until deepened in color and fragrant. Meanwhile, cut squash in large cubes and give the onion a large chop. Mince rosemary.
  2. Place squash on a large cookie sheet. Drizzle with 1½ tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Toss together the onions and rosemary with the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil on a separate sheet. Place both in fully heated oven and toss the vegetables on the pan after 15 minutes, then continue cooking another 10 to 20 minutes until soft and browned in spots; the onions will take a shorter time. Remove both from oven and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, shallot, mustard, maple syrup and olive oil, then slowly drizzle in walnut oil, whisking to thicken. Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper, taste, and adjust ingredients and seasonings as desired.
  4. Mix squash together with the onion and rosemary mixture and spoon onto a platter. Scatter with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts. Drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with chives. Serve on a bed of greens, if desired, and pass additional dressing around the table.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Copyright 2016 P.K. Newby via Zester Daily and Reuters Media Express