One kind of produce that does just fine making the long trip up to Alaska this time of year: squash. The squash section at the grocery is robust, and there’s plenty of inspiration in there. My favorite line of kitchen experiments involve combining sweet, starchy squash with acid and heat — like Thai chile or roasted tomatillo. This bright salad is a perfect Thanksgiving contender to balance out turkey and mashed potatoes. It’s easy and all its parts can be made ahead.
This recipe puts the humble acorn squash on display. Here’s the edgy part: you can totally eat the skin. Wash it well, slice it super thin and roast it. It turns into a sweet, crunchy bit that adds nice texture. You can also sub in butternut, but in that case, you have to peel it and make sure the slices are really thin so they roast well. If you have access to a Thai chile, you can sub that in for the red pepper flake as well. And any roasted nut can take the place of pepitas.
Cilantro-lime squash salad
One medium sized acorn squash
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
8 cups mixed greens
1/2 cup dried sour cherries or cranberries
1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles
1/2 cup roasted pepitas
For the dressing:
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1 ½ to 2 tablespoons lime juice
½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on desired heat
½ teaspoon sea salt
Instructions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. With a sharp knife, slice the squash in half from stem to tip. Scoop out the seeds. Working from the bottom up, slice each squash half into very thin, approximately ⅛ inch thick, moon-shaped slices. Lay the slices on a large metal baking sheet. They should not overlap at all, so use two sheets if necessary. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Put in the oven to roast for 25 minutes. When the squash is done, it should be soft and golden on the edges. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Make the dressing. In a small blender or food processor, place cilantro, olive oil, 1 ½ tablespoons lime juice, desired amount of red pepper flakes and sea salt. Blend until the leaves are totally pulverized and the dressing is smooth and green. Taste. Adjust salt if desired. Add additional lime juice, if you’d like it brighter.
To assemble the salad, place the greens on a platter or four individual plates. Arrange squash slices on top of the greens, sprinkle with roasted pepitas, dried cherries, and goat cheese. Drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.