Butternut Squash Salad: It Deserves a Close-Up

Friday, October 19, 2012

If you’ve been following my posts of late you know that I recently did a cooking demo at the Boston Local Food Festival. I made several salads that day with a focus on teaching people how to make vinaigrette. My first dish was a butternut squash salad with rosemary roasted onions, dried cranberries, and chive blossoms. If you missed it, check out the videos of me whisking up a maple dijon vinaigrette and putting together the salad for more details and a few healthy eating tips. Yet, it’s hard to see just how pretty that salad was on the video, inspiring me to prepare it for dinner earlier this week to show you a photo (or four). I used crisp green and red mustard greens as the bed and served it with a cup of tomato tamarind soup for a perfect autumn supper. With all the gorgeous colors and flavors (not to mention nutrients), isn’t it time for you to give this salad a try?

Salad Experimentation (and a Few More Photos)

Remember that it’s always about options when it comes to turning salad into a meal. (More on the why here.) I mention in the video that this recipe in some ways screams out for nuts and/or cheese, though one runs the risk of becoming too busy: less is often more when it comes to elegant salads such as this. That said, given I was at home I experimented and sampled both versions. (That’s my way of saying I had two small platefuls of salad. Along with the soup. But, hey, it was dinner!) The original is above and the one with toasted walnuts and chèvre is below.

I honestly couldn’t tell you which I preferred. If I had to choose I’d probably say the original. There are a lot of big flavors already so adding nuts and cheese did become a little distracting, as I speculated, and it just wasn’t necessary, especially when served with soup. Nuts and cheese add calories, which is another good reason to watch your intakes if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight. Yes, they can still be consumed as part of a healthy diet—particularly nuts—but I’ll admit there was a time I put cheese on almost every salad I made (that is to say, just about every day). This is a bad habit I’ve since broken. It’s better to focus your salads around healthier plant foods, obviously: it should not be a cheese delivery vehicle. And make sure to use lots of greens, too, which add fiber, water, nutrients, and texture to balance the starchier squash and sweet cranberries. It’s hard to see the hefty bed of lettuce in the plated salad pictures, but there actually is a lot of it there, and it makes a difference.

Ah, well. At least the photos are pretty.

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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

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