Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Beluga Lentils and Sage-Flavored Croutons
The butternut squash risotto was such a success last week that everyone was asking for more. I've learned that it's not a great idea to repeat the same dishes too often, even when requested, because eventually everyone gets tired of them. As opposed to making another main course, I decided to prepare a fresh salad that really shows off the versatility of butternut squash.
Instead of roasting the butternut squash with cumin and saffron as I did for the risotto, I glazed it with maple and flavored it with fresh sage. Sage is one of the most prolific herbs in our garden; it literally grows like weeds. This was a great opportunity to put it to good use, and I did so on multiple occasions in this dish.
I wanted to give this salad a real Fall feel, so I made a pomegranate vinaigrette and paired it with sage-infused oil. Continuing with the theme, I topped the salad with dried cranberries and sage-flavored croutons. The crunch of the croutons provides an excellent textural foil to the soft roasted butternut squash and the crispness of the greens.
Thanksgiving is not too far off, and if you're looking for a new addition to your table, this salad is a healthy and delicious option. Enjoy!
Yields: 6 servings1 (2-pound) butternut squash
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
6 sprigs fresh sage leaves
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 cup baby spinach, tightly packed
1 cup arugula, tightly packed
1 cup rocket leaves, tightly packed
1 cup frisee lettuce
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, tightly packed, chopped
2/3 cup Beluga lentils, pre-cooked
1/4 cup pomegranate paste
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 teabag Earl Grey Tea
1-1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 slices stale white bread
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 tablespoons herbs (tarragon, thyme, oregano, dill), finely chopped
1 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons dill
Roasting the butternut squash:
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Peel and dice the butternut squash into 1-1/2-inch cubes. In a bowl, toss the diced butternut squash in 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, kosher salt, pepper, butter, nutmeg and 1 sprig of sage.
Brush a baking sheet with olive oil. Place the butternut squash pieces without crowding them. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until slightly browned and softened. Let cool completely. Remove and discard the sage leaves.
For the cranberries:
Make a cup of Earl Grey tea. Soak the cranberries in the hot cup of tea and let them sit for at least 20 minutes, then strain and reserve the cranberries. Discard the liquid.
For the sage-flavored oil:
Gather about 1/3 cup of loosely packed fresh sage leaves.
Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium low heat. As soon as the oil is hot, lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Add the minced garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant. Turn off the heat. Add the sage and lemon zest. Stir well. Cool the oil completely. Strain out the herbs through a double-layered cheese cloth and pour the sage-flavored oil into the bowl.
Set aside about 1/3 cup of sage-flavored oil for the vinaigrette. Use the rest for the croutons.
For the croutons:
Preheat oven to 325°F.
In a blender or a mini-blender if you have one, mix 1-1/2 tablespoons of herbs in the sage-flavored oil. Give it a few pulses.
Cut the bread into about 1-inch to 1-1/2-inch cubes. Spread the bread cubes onto a non-stick baking sheet. Drizzle the oil on the bread cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Toss well.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Cool the croutons for at least 15 minutes.
For the pomegranate vinaigrette:
In a bowl, mix together the pomegranate paste, sugar, remaining maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, reserved sage-flavored olive oil, pickled garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Mix all the greens and croutons together. Add the maple-roasted butternut squash, cranberries and the beluga lentils. Drizzle with pomegranate vinaigrette. Toss well. Sprinkle more dill and serve immediately.
You can find pomegranate paste in an Iranian/Pakistani store or online. It needs to be refrigerated after opening. It adds a nice tart flavor to the sauce. You can also make it yourself if you have fresh pomegranates. I recently made it fresh for a simple green bean salad.
I bought precooked beluga lentils from Trader Joe's but you can substitute any other kind of lentils or beans. It's a great addition of protein to a salad. Check out my savory goat cheese panna cotta with beluga lentil relish.
You can use any kind of greens for this salad. Romain lettuce or even spinach leaves would work fine as well.
Waste not, want not. Croutons are a perfect way to recycle stale bread. Check out my other version with brown butter baguette. You can also make bread crumbs for mac & cheese or garlic bread for soups and salads.October 14, 2009.