Surprising as it may be, salads can be just as comforting as any other fall dish. This one is a prime examples. It would also make a great side dish for your Thanksgiving meal.
1 (2-2½ pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch cubes
Note: I tried it recently with a mix of unpeeled delicata and peeled butternut. I prefer the butternut.
5½ tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup slivered almonds
1½-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼-½ pound fresh spinach, stems discarded
½ cup dried cranberries
1. Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 450ºF.
2. Toss the squash with 1½ tablespoons oil on a rimmed baking sheet; spread them out in one layer. Season with salt and pepper and roast, stirring once halfway through roasting, until the squash is just tender, pale golden, and just slightly caramelized, about 30 minutes. Cool on the sheet until warm, about 15 minutes.
3. Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat. Add the almonds and cook, stirring constantly until golden, about 3 minutes. Put a fine mesh sieve over at large bowl and pour the almonds into the sieve, catching the oil in the bowl. Let them both cool for about 10 minutes.
4. Whisk the lemon juice into the cooled oil until well combined. Add salt and pepper and taste for the right balance between oil and lemon.
5. Add the squash, spinach, dried cranberries, half the almonds, and gently toss to coat all the ingredients. Check for seasonings and add whatever you think is necessary. Serve the salad sprinkled with the remaining almonds.
Note: If you want to make this ahead, do everything except add the spinach to the salad and store in the fridge. Let the squash warm up a bit before serving. You may need to add a bit more dressing to the spinach if the squash has soaked it all up.
Adapted from Ruth Reichl’s The Gourmet Cookbook