Butternut Squash Winter Salad

As soon as the weather changes, I feel like salads are undeserving-ly forgotten about. We enjoyed them during the summer, and partly through autumn. They were our go-to lunches, and sometimes dinners. Easy to throw together, refreshingly light to help cope with the summer heat, and even exciting in their endless possibilities. So why is it that we neglect them come November? It just doesn't seem right that we abandon such a dish, especially one that has been so good to us.

And so, I have decided not to; I will not abandon the salad during the winter months.
Maybe it will no longer serve as a full meal, and will move over to it's role as a starter or side dish, and maybe it's colors will change from bright reds and vibrant greens to earthy purples and deep oranges, but it will still hold a spot on my table.

My first such salad was a refreshing addition to my dinner. Bitter radicchio, sweet roasted butternut squash, topped with a tangy orange vinaigrette, it was not only hearty but lively as well. I added some walnuts for texture and dried cranberries for a slightly tart flavor.
And as salads typically are, it was fairly quickly put together. The only timely part was waiting for the squash to roast. But I cut my slices thin enough, about 1/4 of an inch, that 15 minutes in the oven was all it needed. And the nice thing about butternut squash in comparison to other winter squashes is that it is easy enough to half, peel and slice.

Butternut Squash Winter Salad
for the salad
1/2 a medium sized butternut squash
2 small heads of radichio
1/2 cup of toasted walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Olive oil to coat
Salt to taste
for the orange maple vinaigrette
1 tsp dijon mustard
pinch of salt
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp orange zest
2 Tbs fresh orange juice
1-2 Tbs maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel, de-seed the half butternut squash. Slice into 1/4 inch thick slices, cutting against the long side of the squash. In a prepared oven proof dish, toss the squash slices with enough olive oil to coat and sprinkle with salt. Roast in the oven until lightly browned along the edges and completely soft, about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the rest of the ingredients for the salad. Cut the radicchio into thin slices. Arrange in a large salad bowl. Chop the walnuts and cranberries, and place atop the radicchio. In a small bowl, add the dijon mustard and a pinch of salt. Mix together with a whisk, and slowly, very slowly, add the olive oil, quickly whisking all the time. It is almost a drop by drop process. The olive oil and mustard should grow together into a pale yellow, thick base of a vinaigrette. Add about a quarter of a cup of olive oil and taste. If it tastes too strongly of mustard, continue adding olive oil. Once you have achieved the desired taste, add the orange zest, orange juice and maple syrup. Whisk together and set aside.
Once the butternut squash is soft, allow to cool. The add to the salad, dress the salad with the vinaigrette and serve.