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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Autumn Market Salad

Michael and I had a fun willy-nilly day at the farmers' market last weekend.  Without an agenda or plan, we roamed the market at whim, chatting with vendors and buying stuff. The results of such a carefree shopping spin? A hodgepodge odd ball assortment of fruits and vegetables that didn't relate to each other. We simply bought what looked interesting, filling our bags with Blue Moon Farm baby arugula, Elmwood Stock  delicata squash, and Raggard Creekside Farm concord grapes. Somewhere along the way, I managed to bag a beautiful sweet dumpling squash that resembled a cross between delicata and acorn squash.

With our market stash occupying every wooden bowl on the kitchen countertop, I stared at it for few days trying to figure out what to do with it. As whole, it didn't make sense, but with an out of town trip on the books, I needed to use it or lose it.

An effortless autumn salad fit the bill perfectly.

I split the sweet dumpling squash in half and scooped out the seeds. Following the outer ribs as a guideline, I sliced the squash into small crescents, tumbled them into a mixing bowl, and tossed them  with salt, pepper, olive oil, and  pure maple  syrup. After cranking the oven  to 400 degrees, I covered the squash with foil and roasted it for 45 minutes, removing the foil for the final 20 minutes.

After I uncovered the squash, I tossed a few slices of speck into the roasting pan to crisp for 10 minutes.

While the sweet dumpling squash slices caramelized in the oven, I whisked together an unconventional vinaigrette, using a 2 to 1 ratio of oil to acid instead  of the traditional 3 to 1 ratio. After squeezing the juice from an orange, I added a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of Wallace Station Bourbon Mustard, salt, pepper, snipped chives, and a scant drizzle of maple syrup. After doubling the amount of olive oil to acid, I emulsified the vinaigrette by shaking everything together in a sealed Mason jar.

When the squash crescents were golden and deeply caramelized, I pulled them from the oven to cool. While they bubbled-down  in thier sticky coating, I sliced a few end-of-season tomatoes along with a small candy onion.
That was it.
When it was time to eat, I gently tossed the tender squash, baby bitter arugula, sliced tomatoes, and slivered onions with the orange maple vinaigrette.

After plating the roasted sweet dumpling squash salad, I topped it additional dressing, orange zest, toasted pecans, shaved sharp white cheddar cheese, and concord grapes. For contrast, I nestled the crisped speck under the squash for a salty crunch.


It was fun to eat with all the contrasting textures and flavors balancing each other nicely. The buttery tender squash melted under the exploding wet freshness of the tomatoes and concord grapes while the wilted baby arugula wrapped the vegetables with a slight bitterness. Tucked  throughout the salad,  slices of roasted brittle speck provided a much needed smack of saltiness and crunch. Pork candy.

For a different take on traditional roasted winter squash,
it was fantastic.

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