(jump to recipe)
I missed most of Fall last year. Between training for a half marathon I didn’t end up completing, to getting 2 wisdom teeth pulled out (also see: uncompleted half marathon), to traveling for almost 8 weeks – it was a crazy few months there. I didn’t get to roast as many types of squash as I normally would. So when I was back to my home base around Christmas time, I was eager to get to it. But then things like a terrible viral throat infection and a move got in the way, and that pretty much brings us up to now.
Now, when most people are all squashed out. But not me!
When I was visiting Sri Lanka this past November, I had this really smooth, creamy Mixed Squash Soup which had the most wonderful citrus notes and fragrance (here’s an article where I went on and on about it), and I figured winter/fall time squashes and oranges do go together really well! But in our minds, they don’t coexist because of the seasons in which they are most popular. Enter February: the month where the squashes slowly start changing their outfits from brown to yellow and orange to green, and in come the Blood Oranges (just for a few weeks, sadly), ready to mingle with their sweet juices and ruby red flesh.
Except, instead of working the orange flavor into my soup to recreate the soup I had in Sri Lanka, I figured I would try to combine them in a lighter-yet-substantial salad. The salad can be upgraded to a complete meal if you add some citrus-scented quinoa/couscous and some toasted pine nuts, but I really liked this simple, fresh format.
I plan to call it the Transition Salad and I hope you will too!
I decided the quantities based on the number of oranges I had on hand, but you can add more or less squash, depending on what else you are having as part of your meal. I ended up using only the narrow portion of the squash.
Peel it with a large chef’s knife, and cut the narrow portion of the squash into 1/4 inch discs.
Season the squash with the dressing (that we’ll be using for the salad later) and bake the discs in a preheated oven (at 400 degrees F) for 10-15 minutes on each side:
While the squash bakes, prep the oranges. I predominantly used Blood Oranges since they are my favorite and grace us only for a few weeks every year, and threw in a Cara Cara orange and a Navel orange for the colors.
Peel the oranges using a sharp knife and cut into 1/4 inch disks as well:
Arrange them on a plate, like so, to take a pretty picture:
At this point, you can abandon the idea of adding the roasted squash to these oranges and just eat these orange slices drizzled with the dressing (if you do so, don’t forget the squash roasting in the oven!), or, go on, and finely dice some salty, creamy Aged Gouda cheese for your Squash and Orange salad, because it is going to be something really surprising!
There’s this little restaurant named Zuzu in Napa Valley, California, where I had the most incredible and unique item on their tapas menu: Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Aged Gouda and Apple Cider Vinegar. The combination of the tanginess of the vinegar, sweetness and warmth of the squash and saltiness of the Gouda was a revelation for me, and I have been waiting to put together something of the sort since then, so the final assembly of this salad is my nod to the Zuzu tapas I ate almost a year ago.
Once the squash is baked (on both sides), assemble and dress the salad:
Mix up the colors as you wish, but I really liked having a disk of the orange, topped with a disk of the warm squash, with a drizzle of the dressing and wee bits of the cheese, softening on the squash. The saltiness of the cheese plays well with the freshness and tang of the citrus as well. Add a touch of green with the chopped chives!
While the oven was still hot, I cubed and roasted the rest of the butternut squash and set it aside for later – it could be blitzed into a soup with some ginger and coconut milk, or meet its panini destiny with some crusty bread, crisped up sage and more gouda cheese – the possibilities are endless!
• Recipe •
Roasted Butternut Squash and Orange Salad
Makes 4 when served as a main, and 6-8 as a side salad
Narrow portion of 1 medium-sized Butternut Squash, peeled, then cut into 1/4 inch discs (about 500 grams total)
4 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of Orange Juice (squeezed from half a small orange)
4-5 Oranges, preferably of different colors (I used a mix of cara cara, navel and blood oranges), peel and pith removed completely, cut into discs
1 oz of Aged Gouda or other hard, salty cheese, cut into small bits
2 tablespoons of Chives, chopped finely
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Line a heavy, rimmed baking sheet with tin foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the butternut squash disks on the baking sheet with at least 1/2-1 inch space between each disk. If the disks are too close to one another, they will steam each other instead of roasting.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil, salt, pepper and orange juice using a fork to make the dressing, and pour 1/3rd of it over the butternut squash disks. Using your hands or a pastry brush, lightly coat both sides of each disk with the dressing.
Roast at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn each disk over and roast the other side for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave the disks warm on the tray.
While the butternut squash roasts, prep the oranges by cutting the top and bottom 1/4 inch off (so that the orange can stand straight on the cutting board). Using a very sharp chef’s knife, cut in between the peel and the flesh of the orange, trying to spare as much of the flesh as possible. Any additional remaining pith can be cleaned up using a sharp paring knife. Then, holding the chef’s knife horizontally, cut thin disks (just thick enough for the slice to hold) of the oranges and set them on a paper towel.
Once the butternut squash is roasted, arrange the butternut squash disks and orange slices in an interleaved, evenly spread out manner. Drizzle the remaining 2/3rd of the dressing all over the salad. Sprinkle the finely diced cheese, garnish with chopped chives, and serve.