My favorite fall salad

This recipe combines a few tricks I’ve learned that turn a decent salad into a great salad:

  1. Dress in stages. Heartier vegetables need more dressing so dress those before your delicate lettuces (tip from An Everlasting Meal).
  2. Season your lettuce. Yep, salad greens need salt too.
  3. Create texture and balance. Salads need a mix of sweet and tangy, soft and crunchy.

This may seem like a lot of time to make a salad but I encourage you to make a lot of the parts ahead of time! You can be flexible with the ingredients and I’ve offered some options in the notes below. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do!

photo of completed recipe: This recipe combines a few tricks I’ve learned that turn a decent salad into a great salad: Dress in stages. Heartier vegetables need more dressing so…
  • You'll be eating in: 50 minutes (or 10 minutes if you prep things ahead!)

  • Active time: 40 minutes

  • Yield: 2 salads

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1

    winter squash such as acorn or honeynut, peeled and diced

  • 3-4

    slices (or equivalent unsliced) stale bread

  • olive oil for roasting

  • 1/2

    head broccoli, cut into bite size florets

  • 5

    ounces (approximate) delicate salad mix

  • 2

    ounces goat cheese (chèvre)

  • pickled red onion (recipe below)

  • toasted pepitas

  • toasted sesame seeds

  • Aleppo pepper

  • salt

  • freshly ground black pepper

For the shallot/mustard vinaigrette:

  • 1

    shallot, finely minced

  • 1

    tablespoon red wine vinegar

  • 2

    teaspoons Dijon mustard

  • 1 1/2

    teaspoons water

  • 1

    garlic clove, grated or finely minced

  • 1/2

    cup olive oil

  • salt

For the quick pickled onions:

  • 1

    large red onion, sliced

  • 1/2

    cup water

  • 1/2

    cup vinegar (white, rice wine, or red wine all work)

  • 1

    teaspoon sugar

  • 1/2

    teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Make the pickled onions

    Up to a week ahead and preferably at least 2 hours ahead (but now is fine too), combine all of the ingredients for the quick pickled onions in a jar and mix well. Add additional water if needed so the onions are completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

  2. Roast the squash

    Toss the diced squash with olive oil and salt (start with 1/2 teaspoon) and roast at 425°F until soft, about 20-25 minutes, tossing once or twice to help with even browning. Let cool and taste, add additional salt as needed.

  3. Make the vinaigrette

    Meanwhile, add the diced shallot, red wine vinegar, mustard, water, and grated garlic in a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the 1/2 cup olive oil while whisking to emulsify.

  4. Make the croutons

    Lower the heat to 350°F. Cube or tear the bread, toss with olive oil, salt, and garlic powder and toast for about 10 minutes until the bread is golden and crispy.

  5. Dress the component parts

    First, dress the hearty vegetables (squash, broccoli) and croutons. I like my croutons a little soggy so I'm ok to let this sit. Next, toss in the salad greens and spoon in additional dressing as needed until lightly coated. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. At this point, the individual pieces should taste good on their own.

  6. Assemble

    Divide the salad into two large bowls. Sprinkle generously with sesame seeds, toasted pepitas, and Aleppo pepper. Top with crumbled goat cheese and some of the pickled onion. Enjoy!

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Notes

Make ahead: The pickled onion should be made ahead. The squash, croutons, and dressing can also be made ahead (best within ~3-4 days) for easier assembly. Store the croutons at room temp. Store the squash in the refrigerator and let come back to room temp before assembling if you remember.

Leftovers: You'll have leftover pickled onion and dressing. Pickled onions will last a while in the fridge and are great on other salads or tacos. Use the rest of the dressing for a simple green salad, to marinate meat, or to dress other roasted vegetables.

Substitutions

Squash: any winter squash would work here. Sweet potato is another great option that I've used.

Pepitas: any toasted pumpkin or squash seed is great. If you're ambitious you can toast the seeds from the squash you roast. Otherwise toasted nuts like pistachios or pecans would be a good option.

Broccoli: cauliflower, romanesco, or even some sliced radicchio or red cabbage would help add crunch and freshness.

Aleppo pepper: this is a mild pepper flake that adds a really nice flavor, but you could skip it or add another red pepper flake for heat.

Any other ingredient: leave it out if you don't have it or don't want it! This salad is heavily influenced by whatever seasonal vegetables I have during the fall and winter months.

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