Here's the title I would like to give this recipe: Honey Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Spinach, Cranberries, and Savory Nut Granola, with Warm Browned Butter Balsamic Dressing. I am normally not a salad person AT ALL you guys, but this is a mic drop situation. Make this salad for Thanksgiving or Christmas! You might not even need the turkey after this.
1 cupdried cranberries(warmed in the oven with the squash)
3/4cupparmesan cheeseshaved with a vegetable peeler
fresh sageto garnish
fresh cranberriesto garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Get out two large rimmed half baking sheets and spray with nonstick spray.
Make the Savory Granola: (Note: you can make this granola up to 3 days ahead.) In a large bowl, add 1 large egg white and use a fork to beat it for about 30 seconds, until it is nice and foamy. Add the remaining wet ingredients and spices: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon sage, and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Stir it together again with the fork.
Add the dry ingredients: 1 cup walnuts, 1 cup old fashioned oats, 1/2 shelled cup pistachios, and 1/2 cup pine nuts. Stir it all together with a rubber spatula, then pour it onto a greased half baking sheet. (Save the bowl, don't wash it!) Place in the center of the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the nuts are browning and the smell just about knocks you out.
Make the Honey Roasted Butternut Squash: Meanwhile, peel and chop up your butternut squash. See photos in the post. I like to use a canning jar lid to scrape the seeds out, it's so much easier! Chop the butternut into about 1 inch pieces, or whatever size looks good to you for eating in a salad.
In the same large bowl that you made the granola in (no need to clean it), add all the chopped butternut squash, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Stir it together, then add to the other prepared baking sheet, spreading into an even layer.
Turn the heat on the oven up to 400 degrees F.* Bake the squash at 400 for about 15 minutes, then toss with a spatula to flip each squash. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until a fork inserted into a butternut slides through easily. The edges of the butternut should be getting golden brown. Total bake time is about 25 minutes or longer, depending on the size of your chop.
About 5 minutes before your squash is done baking, add 1 cup dried cranberries to the pan and stir. (This makes them warm and soft for serving)
Make the dressing: Add 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) salted butter to a small saucepan, and turn the heat to medium. Stir the butter as it melts, and keep stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. The butter will melt, then start to foam, then eventually turn brown, with little brown bits swirling at the bottom. It should smell nutty and fragrant (not burned or acrid.) Remove from the heat immediately once you see swirls of brown in the foam when you stir. Set aside to let cool for about 5 minutes.
In a blender, add 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 small shallot (roughly chopped), 2 teaspoons dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Blend until mostly smooth. Then, with the blender on low speed, add the browned butter in a stream through the jar lid center cap. Adjust seasonings to taste, and thin with up to 2 tablespoons warm water, if desired.
Leave the dressing in the blender to cool slightly until you are about to serve, whirring it one more time just before scraping it out into a serving dish.**
Assemble the salad: In a large serving bowl, add about 10 ounces baby spinach. Add a few tablespoons of the warm dressing (not hot! you don't want it to wilt) and toss lightly.
Add the roasted butternut squash and warmed cranberries. Add as much of the savory granola as you like (you don't need to use all of it), and toss. Top the salad with freshly shaved parmesan to taste, fresh sage leaves, and a handful or two of fresh cranberries.***
Pass the warm dressing at the table for guests to serve themselves.
Storage: This salad is best eaten right away! If you don't think you will eat it all, only toss the salad with the amounts of ingredients that you think you will eat right away. Store any leftover dressing in a tupperware, and microwave before using again (it will solidify). Store each salad component separately in a tupperware in the fridge. Except for the granola: Extra granola will keep on the counter, sealed well, for about 1-2 weeks.
Make ahead instructions: You can make the granola and dressing up to 3 days in advance. Store the granola sealed on the counter, keep the dressing in the fridge. You must reheat the dressing (microwave is fine) before serving. You can also make the butternut squash ahead of time: Cook as directed, but leave the squash a little "al dente". Store in the fridge for up to 2 days, then on the day you are serving, spread the squash on a pan and roast at 400 until warmed through, maybe 5-8 minutes.Alternatively, you can peel and chop the raw squash up to 3 days ahead of time, storing it well sealed in the fridge. Then add honey and oil to roast on the day you serve, just as instructed. Assemble the salad as usual!
*I know this is unconventional and makes it a little confusing, but I usually add the butternut to my oven while the nuts are still toasting. The butternut needs to roast at 400, so when you turn up the heat, make sure you watch the nuts carefully. You will need to toss them more frequently (I would check them every 3-5 minutes and give them a stir.) If you turn up the heat before the nuts are done toasting, make sure you decrease the bake time a bit. Be careful, burned nuts are the greatest tragedy! If you are nervous, just wait until the nuts are done toasting at the appropriate temperature (350), take the nuts out, and then bake the squash afterward at 400. **This dressing is made from butter, and so will solidify at room temperature. If it starts to get too thick, simply microwave it for a few seconds until it thins out. But don't overdoo it, you want to add WARM dressing to your spinach, not hot. We don't want it to wilt. ***Garnishes are optional of course, but I LOVE the fresh sage leave and fresh cranberries in this salad. It gives the best flavor and crunch!