My dear friends, it has been way too long. It’s late, and I’m sitting here with a cup of tea (I’m not going to lie—I just finished a gigantic glass of wine). I feel so glad to be back.  I’ve been consumed with a few projects, which I promise to share with you very, very soon (as a hint, one starts with “b” and ends with “k”!!), but in the meantime, did you get the memo that Thanksgiving is next week? How did this fall flash by so fast? My little baby is already almost eleven months old! My oldest is flying through kindergarten! And there are only FIVE MORE MONDAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!!

Ok, I just poured another glass of wine. Can I get you one?IMG_6684v2

It’s been a whirlwind of a fall. We’ve finally caught our breath, and now the holidays are scratching at our back door. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to let them in, but I’m also looking for every possible way to simplify things this year. That means designing streamlined menus filled with do-ahead dishes for all of our holiday gatherings. While we’re lucky to be spending Thanksgiving with James’s family this year, where his mom makes a mean spread, this salad is surely going to make its sweet little appearance more than once this season. Caramelized butternut squash gets tossed with maple-roasted pecans, brown rice (or any chewy grain you like, such as farro, pearled barley or wheat berries), crisp apples, creamy goat cheese and a roasted garlic dressing. It’s savory, sweet, full of texture and flavor, and, best of all, it can happily sit at room temperature for several hours, freeing you up to fret over the gravy and mashed potatoes. The butternut squash, pecans, dressing and rice can even be made the day before. Serve the salad alongside your turkey or roast, bring it to a potluck, or save it for a nutritious post-holiday lunch. It’s as crowd-pleasing and adaptable as Tom Hanks circa 1994.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I promise to be back soon with more From Scratch Fast recipes and tips. This year, I’m grateful for so very much, including you.

For more holiday inspiration, find me on Twitter and Instagram at @SizemoreNicki !

Squash, Apple & Goat Cheese Salad

Squash, Apple & Goat Cheese Salad

Caramelized butternut squash gets tossed with maple-roasted pecans, brown rice (or any chewy grain you like, such as farro, pearled barley or wheat berries) crisp apples, creamy goat cheese and a roasted garlic dressing for a salad that’s savory, sweet and full of texture and flavor. Best of all, it can happily sit at room temperature for several hours. If you want to really gussy it up, garnish the salad with fried sage leaves just before serving (see tip below).
Servings 6
Author Nicki Sizemore

Ingredients

  • 1 2- pound butternut squash , peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (4 cups diced)
  • 6 cloves garlic , unpeeled
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage , divided
  • 1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons plus ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil , divided
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3-4 cups cooked brown rice (from 1 cup uncooked)
  • 1 crisp apple (such as Fuji, Jonagold or Pink Lady), cored and cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2-4- ounces goat cheese , crumbled
  • Fried sage leaves (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with foil and add the diced butternut squash, garlic cloves, 1 ½ teaspoons sage, balsamic vinegar and 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix everything around on the pan to coat. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender and caramelized around the edges, about 30 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  3. While the squash bakes, make the maple pecans. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil and add the pecans and 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup. Season with salt. Toss the pecans to evenly coat in the syrup, then spread in an even layer. Pop the pan in the oven (this can be alongside the squash) for about 5 minutes, or until the nuts are a shade darker in color and aromatic. Immediately transfer the nuts to a plate. Cool completely, then coarsely chop.
  4. To make the dressing, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins into a small bowl, and mash them into a paste with a pinch of salt. Add the apple cider vinegar, the remaining ½ tablespoon maple syrup and the remaining ½ teaspoon sage. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the remaining ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, cooked rice, apple and chopped pecans. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as needed. Gently fold in the goat cheese. If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with fried sage leaves just before serving.

Do Ahead: The squash, pecans, rice and dressing can be made up to 1 day in advance. Store separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Once made, the salad can sit, covered, at room temperature for up to 3 hours.

    Tip: To fry sage leaves, heat ¼-inch of neutral vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Once hot, carefully add the sage leaves. They should start to bubble. Cook, flipping once, until the leaves start to crisp up but not brown. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and season with salt. Store at room temperature, uncovered, for up to 3 hours.