Friday, November 25, 2011

Butternut Squash Salad with Blue Cheese, Cranberries, and Walnuts

If you spent your Thanksgiving stuffing yourself to the gills with all manner of delicious foods (as you should) the way I did, you may be feeling a bit sluggish today and looking to lighten up your diet a bit over the weekend, while still enjoying leftovers. If you have any leftover squash, particularly butternut, this salad is an absolutely fantastic way to use it up. I did not create this salad to use up leftover squash (just to make a dent in the ample supply I got in my CSA box), but I thought it was the perfect recipe to share after Thanksgiving, particularly on a year like this with such unseasonably warm temperatures where a salad wouldn't seem so out of place on the dinner table. Creamy, sweet butternut squash pairs exceptionally well with pungent blue cheese, rich, crunchy walnuts, sweet-tart dried cranberries, and assertive red onions for a fresh, but hearty plate of harvest flavor. The massive salad allows you to chow down on a huge plate of food with all the fervor of a Thanksgiving meal without doing nearly as much damage to your diet. While you can't argue with the classic uses for Thanksgiving leftovers (it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a cold turkey sandwich the next day), hopefully this novel use can find a way into your holiday weekend dining as well.

Butternut Squash Salad with Blue Cheese, Cranberries, and Walnuts
serves 1

8 ounces butternut squash, cut into small cubes
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces spinach or salad greens, washed, and chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 ounce blue cheese
Salad dressing, for serving (I recommend balsamic vinaigrette)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss squash cubes with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake squash for approximately 30 minutes, tossing occasionally, or until squash is just tender.

2. Meanwhile, place greens or spinach on a large plate and top with red onion, cranberries, and walnuts. Once the squash has finished cooking, place the warm squash on top and crumble blue cheese on top of the warm squash. Drizzle with salad dressing and serve while squash is still warm.

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