I was so excited about this salad we made last night that I just had to find the time today to write about it!

I am one of those sorts who really appreciates the nuances of season change. From the little things ““ remembering what socks are after a long, flip-floppy summer and switching makeup colors to a less bronzy look ““ to big things like earlier sunsets, jewel-toned foliage and craving heartier, more comforting dishes, I don’t lament the ever-changing face of Mother Nature.

With the cooler temperature, last night I had a hankering for something quintessentially autumn. I wasn’t up for a ton of work, so I decided to throw a couple of chickens in the oven (yes, yet another chicken recipe coming atcha) and find an interesting side dish. As soon as I flipped to the photo of this salad in Back to Basics, I knew it would fit the bill perfectly.

I would eat butternut squash any way you want to serve it. In fact one of our all-time favorite recipes is for a delectably rich Butternut Squash Risotto from Gourmet magazine in 1995 that I surprised David with back when I was a neophyte cook. (Yikes…I’m in trouble if he reads this, as I’ll soon be guilted into standing at the stove and stirring and stirring and stirring until we have the glistening risotto before us!)

Sighhhh…crazy lady I am, waxing poetic over squash.

Anyway, Zack and I peeled and cubed the butternut squash, and Zack was mildly astonished to find that inside it looks like a pumpkin. SIlly boy, he had never actually realized that pumpkins are squash! We roasted the squash with maple syrup, olive oil, salt and pepper, and added the dried cranberries for the final few minutes in the oven. In the meantime, we made the reduction for the dressing with apple juice, cider vinegar and shallots. We doubled the recipe, and It took about 15 minutes for the liquid to reduce, leaving a sweet and tangy syrup as our dressing base. We whisked in dijon mustard as an emulsifier and some olive oil, and the dressing was complex and lovely. Toasted some walnuts, grated some parmesan, and we were ready to toss everything together with the baby arugula. The greens, of course, immediately wilted as they embraced the warm squash and dressing. Every mouthful had sweetness, saltiness, pepperiness, tang, chewiness, crunchiness, velvetiness. Couldn’t ask for a prettier or more delicious taste of autumn!

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