Spiced squash salad. Say that five times fast!
Friendsgiving is easily one of my favorite holidays. Although it may not be an official holiday, it’s still one that I look forward to every year. I was in college when I attended my first Friendsgiving with the neighborhood kids back home. Everyone brought something to pass and everything was amazing! Ryan wouldn’t let us forget about the oh-so-good bacon in his green beans, Katie made the best mashed potatoes I’d ever had (her secret: greek yogurt!), and Scott and I finished the entire pan of cornbread almost completely by ourselves. And don’t even get my started about the turkey. It was deep fried. Nuff said. 🙂 I know I’m raving about the food right now, but it’s really the people that make Friendsgiving so great. I’m thankful for that. This year, I attended Friendsgiving with a different group of friends. And I’m so happy I did. Honestly, if it weren’t for these people I would have left Champaign by now.
The day of Friendsgiving this year was a busy one for me. I’m a server on weekends (teachers don’t teach for the money!) and I only had an hour between my shift and the party. I signed up to bring a vegetable dish and was stumped on what I could bring with minimal time to prep, cook, and get myself ready. After racking my brain, and asking for help (thanks Erin!) I came up with this: spiced squash & spinach salad. It was easy to make, I already had all the ingredients in the fridge, and it didn’t need to be reheated on arrival.
The first time I made a salad like this, I didn’t season the squash with anything but salt and pepper. It was okay. This time I added cinnamon, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper to give it a kick. It made all the difference! Here’s a tip when preparing the squash: don’t season it before roasting. These spices are delicate and may burn. Instead, sprinkle the seasoning on as soon as you take it out of the oven. The residual warmth will heat the spices through just enough to really meld flavors.
The pecan pieces add a nice crunchy texture. I toasted them to really bring out the flavor and compliment the spice and warmth of the squash. If you have never toasted nuts before, its pretty simple and can really take any dish to the next level. You can do this in the oven, but I prefer using a dry pan. Make sure to stir frequently and watch so they don’t burn.
I added pomegranate seeds to for color and sweetness. I think they really elevate the dish. If you don’t have any on hand, you can always sub for dried cranberries. The cranberries will give just a hint of tartness as well. Don’t skimp on the goat cheese! Other than the squash, it’s the best part! I used a honey goat cheese but plain or herb would work too.
The salad dressing is simple to make, and this recipe makes extra for those friends who like to douse their greens. Instead of whisking, add the ingredients to a bowl with a tight fitting lid and shake, shake, shake! Shake that dressing! Shake that dressing!
This salad was a real hit at the party. People kept complimenting the flavors, how they enjoyed the spicy kick, and how fancy the pomegranate seeds made it feel. I’m happy I could bring something everyone enjoyed, but I’m even happier to have great people in my life to enjoy it with ♥
Spiced Squash & Spinach Salad
- 1 small butternut squash
- 1 T olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp peprika
- 1/8 tsp cumin
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 5 T olive oil
- 3 T apple cider vinegar
- 1 T honey
- 1 T lemon juice
- 6 oz baby spinach
- 2 oz goat cheese
- 1/4 c toasted pecans
- 1/4 c pomegranate seeds
Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel squash, cut in half and remove seeds. Cube squash and toss with 1 T olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 30-35 mins, turning squash halfway through.
When squash is finished roasting remove from oven and sprinkle with cinnamon, paprika, cumin, and cayenne while still warm. Toss to coat evenly.
Prepare salad dressing by mixing olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl with tight fitting lid. Shake, shake, shake to combine! This recipes makes extra dressing.
Construct salad by adding all ingredients and lightly toss with 1/3 of the salad dressing. This salad is best served while squash is still warm. However, it tastes delicious either way!