How often do we read some article about how meaningful it is to cook with the seasons? And how easy is that to do, say, April through October? But then winter arrives, and tests our seasonal good intentions.
“O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?” Yeah, yeah, Shelley, you try and make a meal out of two rutabagas and a turnip. But hey, I’m not really as curmudgeonly about winter as that. I love cold weather cooking, in fact. And I like a challenge.
Making a salad in the warm months is an exercise of greediness and narrowing down choices. Our bowls overfloweth. But daylight savings arrives, and grabs us by the farmers’ market, and the pickings get slimmer. But then the creative juices start to flow, and we might think about including a cooked ingredient or two in a salad, and maybe some cold-weather fruit.
In this salad beautiful, sweet, orange butternut squash gets roasted with some slightly—but appealingly—bitter radicchio. The roasting process actually sweetens up the lettuce a bit, as well as the squash. When cooled, they are mixed with some assertive endive, tart apple, and earthy chickpeas.
You can choose between red wine or balsamic vinegar for the dressing. Either will amp up the tartness, and the balsamic will add a bit of sweetness as well.
And the ricotta salata is the absolutely amazing finishing touch. It is an Italian cheese that should be a whole lot more popular than it is. Ricotta salata is actually made from the whey of sheep’s milk. It has an ivory color, a lovely saltiness, and a firm, crumbly texture. If you can’t find it, a cup of crumbled feta would do you just fine. You could also use goat cheese, but I might sprinkle that over the top of the salad, so it stays distinct and doesn’t mush into the rest of the salad.
Chopped Winter Salad
- 1 pound cubed, ¾-inch butternut squash
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 large head radicchio quartered and cored, and each quarter sliced in thirds crosswise
- ¼ cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
- 2 large heads endive sliced cross-wise into ½-inch slices
- 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 green apple cut into ½-inch dice
- 1 cup slivered ricotta salata
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Spread out into a single layer, and roast for 15 minutes, until almost tender. Remove from the oven, add the radicchio, toss again, and spread out again into a single layer. Roast for another 8 to 10 minutes until the squash is tender, but still firm, and the radicchio is wilted. Remove and let cool to room temperature.
- In a large bowl whisk together the vinegar, remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper. Add the cooled squash and radicchio, endive, chickpeas, apple and ricotta salata and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
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