Recipe :: Roasted Squash and Beet Salad
It’s a pioneer-feeling kinda day.
I’m working my way through Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and contemplating building a root cellar in the basement of our rental house, while Miles makes beef soup from vegetables and soup bones we got at the Abingdon Farmer’s Market this morning. This was the last farmer’s market of the regular season; for 9 months of the year the markets are held twice weekly, but in January, February, and March there is only one market per month. It just gets too cold for both the growing and the selling of produce. The fall veggies went out in a blaze of glory today, however, and we picked up what we needed for the soup, as well as some beautiful beets and an acorn squash for me.
Even before we moved here, Miles was excited about finding a butcher and a “beef guy.” I believe we found our beef guy today, and he turned out to be a very nice woman named Theresa from Chestnut Grove Farms, about an hour way in North Carolina. She happily told us all about her completely grass-fed, steriod-free cows, and invited us to come get poop on our shoes sometime. I stopped eating meat in January 2007 because I didn’t want to eat tortured, poisoned animals who had never had the chance to live freely and who would pass their growth hormones on to me. HOWEVER, happy cows who roam around a farm and eat the grass they are evolved to eat sound delicious. We bought soup bones and beef patties from Theresa, and I am looking forward to my first hamburger and beef stew in five years.
In all the excitement over the happy cows, I bought a squash and forgot that I don’t really know how to cook it. Also, the only thing I’ve ever done with beets is make cupcakes. Squash are beautiful and hefty and delicious in soups, but… really… what does one do with one of these things just like… lying on the kitchen counter? I decided that one attempts to have the same degree of success one had with the beets by employing the same mode of preparation — roasting.
Inspired by the simplicity of the pioneer mountain woman identity that I’ve assumed (at least until Friday, when I will assume the identity of on-my-honeymoon-cruise-with-private-balcony-brat), I decided that what I should really do is roast the beets as I would for cupcakes, roast the squash, roast some nuts, and toss all that with cheese and olive oil for a hearty salad. Any salad without lettuce is a winner in my book.
This salad is the perfect compliment to beef stew, or any other rustic, wintery stick-to-your-bones supper. And if I can cook it in the tiny inn kitchen with little fuss, you should be able to master it at home. The trick is in the order of the steps.
Note: this is much easier with two cookie sheets, but you can pull it off with one. Also, find some tongs for the flipping.
Roasted Squash and Beet Salad
- 1 cup shelled, halved walnuts
- 1 acorn squash
- 2 medium-sized or 1.5 large beets
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tbsp pepper
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup feta or goat cheese crumbles
- optional: 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Heat oven to 400° F.
- Cut the tops and tails off the beets (if attached), but do not peel or clean them. Wrap unpeeled beets in aluminum foil and place on rimmed baking sheet. Put in the oven and roast them alone for 25 minutes. (Their total roasting time will be 45 minutes.)
- Meanwhile, cut the acorn squash (tutorial here), being sure to remove the interior seeds and membranes. Toss the slices in 3 tbsp olive oil, salt, sugar, and pepper. When the squash is well-coated, put the slices on the baking sheet in the oven to roast with the beets for 20-25 minutes. Flip them over once during roasting, being careful not to flip them off the cookie sheet and into the 400˚ oven, Chelsea.
- Take the beets and squash out of the oven, but leave the oven on. Cool the squash and take the foil off the beets. Spread the walnuts in a single layer on the baking sheet, and toast until fragrant (4-5 minutes). If you don’t want to roast the walnuts, you can just toss them in raw as well.
- While the nuts are roasting, chop the beets into cubes. You can peel them, but it’s not really necessary. Chop the squash into cubes as well.
- Take the walnuts out and chop them.
- Toss chopped beets, walnuts, and squash in the remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil, cheese, and balsamic vinegar (if using).
- Serve when slightly cooled, or after refrigerating 2 hours.
SECRET HIDDEN RECIPE!
This recipe makes a lot more salad than two people can eat in one sitting, and if you’re looking to get creative with your leftovers, may I suggest the following?
- Buy or make a pizza crust.
- Spread pizza crust with about 2 tbsp olive oil, and then put on it whatever other kind of pizza toppings you might have on hand (chopped onions, cilantro, carrots).
- Put a healthy helping of the squash and beet salad on top of the crust, top with more cheese if desired, and then bake in a 450˚ oven for 10-12 minutes.
Not to toot my own horn (too loudly), but the results are OUTSTANDING.