Autumn Apple and Butternut Salad with Cherries, Pistachios, and Chevre – Two Ways!


The holidays are all about happily rushing around between events with those we care about. That’s the nice way to say there is just not enough time from mid-November until January. I was lucky to get to have two of these events within 24 hours of each other last weekend. We celebrated Thanksgiving with BF’s family on Sunday afternoon (which gave me the opportunity to play Iron Chef when I realized at 2pm that the party started at 4, not 7 as I had thought!!) and then on Monday morning, my mom let me know that two favorite relatives were available that night, so of course I offered to make dinner for them at my house. From my desk at the office, this silly over-committing girl managed to plan a menu, run to the grocery store, and clean like a madwoman tidy up a bit on my lunch break. Both meals were so much fun. With all of the dinner parties on your agenda this holiday season, it’s crucial to hone in on easy, tasty recipes like this one that can be completely transformed from one party to the next. This recipe is a great starting point for similar ones that you can develop to suit your tastes (i.e. based on whatever you have on hand when you remember you have to bring a dish!). The base of the salad is spinach, because unlike crunchy lettuces, spinach is delicious heated up, which you will thank me for when you read about the upcycled leftover recipe that follows the salad.

Autumn Apple and Butternut Salad with Bing Cherries, Pistachios, and Chevre


You will need:
  • 1 medium bag washed spinach
  • 2 granny smith apples, cored and diced (I do not peel mine, I like the peel’s flavor and color!)
  • 1 1/2 cups dried Bing cherries (try to find ones that aren’t crazy sweetened)
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled pistachios, toasted and salted
  • 1 log of herb and chive crusted chevre
  • 2 cups cubed, diced (tiny bites) butternut squash
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

For the dressing:

  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Salt, pepper, and oregano, to taste

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 400. Place the finely diced butternut squash into a thick, oven-proof dish (like a Pyrex or stone baking dish) and toss the olive oil into the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake uncovered for twenty minutes.
  • Meanwhile, toss the spinach and all other salad ingredients in a large bowl. Break up the herbed chevre into large chunks.
  • When the butternut is ready, add the hot squash to the salad bowl. The heat from the squash will melt the chevre slightly, allowing the flavors to blend together and to make a flavorful base for your salad dressing. Toss well to combine the squash, chevre, and other salad ingredients.
  • Add the salad dressing dressing to the bowl and gently stir together to combine.
  • Serve your salad as-is, room temperature to your dining companions:

  • Remember to save all leftovers (or reserve about 1 cup if you’re feeding salad-lovers and run the risk of running out!) 
Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wilted Autumn Spinach Salad
This is the part of the recipe when your jaw will drop! Your gratitude will be beyond words! Yes: you can serve a plain old leftover salad at a dinner party that will end up stealing the show! The star of this dish is acorn squash. Acorn squash is wonderfully easy to prepare, it’s very low calorie, and it adds a soft, mellow flavor, so it combines will with the bolder flavors in the salad. The presentation and flavor make this a perfect vegetarian main or a side dish at a dinner party, and the best part is how little hands-on time it requires the day of the party, allowing the hostess to focus on the more demanding dishes on your menu.
For six servings, you will need:
  • 3 acorn squash
  • 2 cups leftover Autumn Apple and Butternut Salad
  • Feta cheese (or other flavorful cheese that melts well, like Parmesan)
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil  
  • Lemon juice, salt, and pepper, to taste

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 400.
  • With a sharp knife, cut the acorn squash in half at its widest section. Once you have cut the squash in half, try to stand each one so that the interior flesh is showing. If any of the squash pieces wobble or are uneven, correct by cutting with your knife. It’s much easier to do this before you’ve baked the squash and having a level “bowl” for the salad mixture is helpful for form and function.
  • Hollow out the seeds and stringy bits from the middle of the acorn squash. Acorn squash is soft, you won’t need more than a standard tablespoon to clean it up. Also, if your squash doesn’t have enough of a hollow middle for your liking, with the same spoon you can scoop out some of the flesh to make more room in the middle. Again, it’s easier to get the shape you want if you make adjustments prior to baking.
  • Drizzle the middle of the hollowed out acorn squash with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  • Add about 1/2 cup total of water to a large muffin tin (the water should be added to the hollow tins where a muffin would go). Baking the squash in the muffin tin allows it to bake and steam simultaneously, which lends to the soft texture of the finished product.
  • Place all six squash halves middle-portion down (so that the water will steam the center flesh of the squash) and bake at 400 for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, simply add the leftover salad to a large skillet. Heat through gently on low to medium heat.

  • Add extra feta, or any other ingredients that you enjoyed in the salad. The spinach will cook down significantly, you may opt to add another handful of spinach at this point. Heat until the dish is combined and heated through, so that it looks like a skillet saute instead of leftovers.
    • If your dog knows your secret, she may be watching you, ready to tell your guests that you’re a real phony. Put her outside if she threatens to do so. Look at that judgmental little face:

  • Once the squash is done, add in equal portions of the salad mixture to each squash, packing down to make it all fit.
  • I served this in a shallow bowl, so my guests wouldn’t be reluctant to use their utensils to really dig into the squash. I loved the flavor, the presentation, and of course the reimagined leftovers.
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