One of my favorite aspects of food is enjoying things in their fleeting seasons (I don’t believe that local, seasonal food is the be-all-end-all, but I do believe that more often than not, it’s pretty great)—parsnips, chestnuts, and ok-not-that-local Florida citrus in winter; fiddleheads, asparagus, and shad roe in spring; tomatoes, corn on the cob, and zucchini in summer; and EVERYTHING in autumn. I mean, I love foods from all seasons, and I get excited about pretty much all of them each time they circle back around the calendar, but most of my absolute favorites appear in autumn. Figs, apples, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, squashes and pumpkins, kale: the whole cornucopia. I’m just basking in all of this right now, I’m so happy.
Here’s an extra-autumnal salad recipe for you, with honeynut squash, which is not only both in season in October and like a sweeter, more concentrated and delicious version of a butternut squash, it is also extremely small and adorable. Like you just want to cradle it in your palms and coo at it. Before slicing it up with a chef’s knife . . . I don’t like where this imagery is going, actually. So yeah, um, please enjoy this salad, and autumn, and, ok, going to stop writing now!
for the salad
- 8 oz baby arugula
- 2 honeynut squashes (or 1 butternut squash), about 1.5 lbs
- 2 Tbsp neutral-flavored, high–smoke point vegetable oil, like sunflower or avocado
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed, nut meats crushed with the flat edge of a large knife
- 4 oz goat cheese, at room temperature, pulled into small pieces
- 16 to 20 large sage leaves, washed and dried completely
- more oil, for frying
- coarse sea salt
for the vinaigrette
- 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
- 3 Tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp hazelnut or walnut oil
- Preheat oven to 400°. Cut honeynut squashes in half, removing stem ends, and scooping out seeds and any stringy bits. Slice widthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Transfer to a baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 3o minutes, or until browned and softened. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, fry the sage: Cover a plate with a paper towel and set aside. In a small sautée pan, heat about 1/4 inch of oil over medium-high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes. Toss in the sage leaves, a few at a time, and fry until the edges curl and the leaves begin to brown very slightly, about 30 seconds. Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and place on the paper towel-lined plate to drain. Sprinkle liberally with coarse sea salt.
- Make the dressing: Combine mustard, vinegar, and hazelnut oil in a jar, cap, and shake until combined. Set aside.
- When squash has cooled, make the salads: Divide arugula among four plates, arrange squash, goat cheese, and sage leaves over the arugula. Drizzle a few spoonsful of the vinaigrette over each salad.