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Archive for Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Warm salads satisfy winter appetite

January 14, 2009

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Salads can be a hard sell in winter. Iceberg lettuce when there’s ice on driveway just doesn’t work.

But in her latest cookbook, “Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics,” Ina Garten offers several succulent salads perfect for cold weather. Her roasted tomato caprese salad, for example, makes use of plum tomatoes (common at most grocers year round).

The other beauty of warm salads is that they better absorb vinaigrette dressings, Garten said in a recent telephone interview.

Also good for taking off the chill is her roasted pears with blue cheese and arugula. Or try her roasted butternut squash salad with warm cider vinaigrette, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts.

“It’s all about the butternut squash,” she said of the inspiration for that recipe. “How can I dress it up without making it too fancy and making it too difficult to make?”

These salads work because they call for ingredients with assertive flavors and plenty of heft. Save the frisee and chilly cucumber slices for summer.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

1 1/2-pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided

3 tablespoons dried cranberries

3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

4 ounces baby arugula

1/2 cup toasted walnut halves

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the squash, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Toss well, then spread the squash evenly over a baking sheet.

Roast the squash until tender, turning once, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, in a small saucepan combine the apple cider, vinegar and shallots. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the mustard, the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Place the arugula in a large serving bowl. Add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts and the Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten, then toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Serves 4.

— Recipe from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics,” Clarkson Potter, 2008

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