Farm-Inspired Butternut Squash Salad

on November 15 | in Cooking, Dinner, Food, Holidays, Lifestyle, Lunch, Recipes, Sides | by | with 27 Comments

There’s nothing like walking around a local farm drinking freshly brewed coffee on a crisp fall morning. OK, I’ll admit, last week was the first time I ever did that. I grew up in northern New Jersey and eventually moved to Chicago. Farms haven’t typically been a part of this city girl’s life, but they’re quickly becoming a new obsession.

My husband and I now live a ways west of Chicago, on the border between urban excitement and country charm. There’s a beautiful organic farm just minutes from my house and I decided it was probably time for me to add a bit more of that country charm to my life.

With coffee and camera in hand, I headed over to Heritage Prairie Farm. I learned about farming techniques, wandered through rows of vegetables and practically had to stop myself from drooling while I watched the Heritage Prairie chefs prep for a private dinner on the farm that evening.

In addition to the produce from their own farm, Heritage Prairie sells honey, cheese, meat, produce, wine and a myriad of other local items at their on-site market. After having watched the farm’s chefs in action and then perusing the shelves of goodies in the market, I felt a bit of culinary inspiration. I purchased some butternut squash and fresh arugula and headed home to make one of my favorite fall recipes.

I first made this recipe two years ago when my husband and I hosted Thanksgiving. Salad normally takes a back seat to everything else on my family’s Thanksgiving menu, but since this was my first time hosting the ultimate food holiday, I was determined to give every bite priority status. Made with sweet butternut squash roasted with maple syrup, this dish did not disappoint.

Now just a couple years later, after making this recipe with freshly harvested butternut squash and arugula from Heritage Prairie Farm, I’ve officially decided this is a recipe Thanksgiving cannot be without. And this city girl will even venture out to a farm for the ingredients.

Maple Roasted Squash Salad with Citrus Cider Vinaigrette

1 small butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful of dried cranberries and/or dried cherries
2 handfuls of lightly candied walnuts*
6 ounces arugula or baby spinach
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1/2 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced sweet onion
Juice and zest of 1 medium orange
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the butternut squash on a cookie sheet. Add the olive oil, the maple syrup, a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Toss so all the squash is adequately coated. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.

For the dressing, combine the apple cider, vinegar, onion, orange juice and zest in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for about 6-7 minutes, or until the mixture is reduced by half. Take the mixture off the heat and whisk in the mustard and olive oil. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper.

Place the arugula in a bowl and add the roasted squash. Toss in the cranberries and/or cherries, walnuts and the grated Parmesan. Serve with vinaigrette dressing and enjoy!

*To make the candied walnuts, put a small saute pan over low heat. Add a handful of shelled walnuts and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until sugar is melted and walnuts are coated. Be careful not to overcook and burn the sugar. Remove from heat and let the walnuts cool.

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27 Responses to Farm-Inspired Butternut Squash Salad

  1. kimberly says:

    Years ago, I discovered the most wonderful organic farm just a few miles from my home. It became a place of inspiration and joy and fun for me and my children. Now, I am living on my own organic farm. Crazy thing, this life.
    It’s such fun to smile and read this and think, I need to take more time to just walk around with my own cup of coffee, to see through new eyes what we are doing and how we can inspire. Thanks! And the recipe–YUM! Always looking for more ways to sure squash since we grew an awful lot this year. I’ve also been busy cracking walnuts since a neighbor gave us a five gallon bucket full of them. I think I’ve found dinner for tonight!

    • Sarah | Offbeat & Inspired says:

      I love hearing about your own experience walking around a farm and then living on your own farm. How exciting! I’d love to continue learning about organic farming and take many more walks around such beautiful places. I hope you enjoy the recipe and I appreciate how you and other farmers have inspired people like me!

  2. jenni says:

    this salad sounds absolutely divine. i’m making it this weekend. i bought a gigantic butternut squash fresh off the farm for $2.99! it could feed us for two weeks! as a result, i’m so glad to have found this recipe. i love reading the posts in your blog and i would ADORE winning the christmas issue and pouring over it while sipping some homemade lemon verbena herb tea with my fire crackling in the background. thank you for the opportunity.

    • Sarah | Offbeat & Inspired says:

      Thanks for your comments! I’m so glad you are enjoying the blog and I hope you enjoy this salad when you make it – I’d love to hear what you think after cooking it! And reading FOLK while sipping homemade tea by the fire sounds like the perfect day. I may do that tonight, too!

  3. Solange says:

    Oh my goodness I’m going to make this salad and follow their blog! I love coffee and farms so I feel right at home


    • Sarah | Offbeat & Inspired says:

      Thanks so much! I’ll definitely be posting more about coffee and farms at FOLK and at Offbeat & Inspired! So glad you enjoyed the post!

  4. Fabulous…definitely printing this out…just scrumptious!

  5. Sarah! This looks so gorgeous and yummy. I LOVE Autumn salads and this one sounds divine. Thank you for sharing it with us.


  6. Linda says:

    Making this tonight! Did you ever have the one at “The Office” in St. Charles? It was a bread salad served warm, no longer on the menu but amazing!!! Thanks for this recipe. :)

    • Sarah | Offbeat & Inspired says:

      So glad you enjoyed the post! I haven’t had this at “The Office”. If they ever bring it back I’ll definitely have to try it!

  7. I love nuts in my salad – a little crunch! Your candied walnuts sound amazing! And your pics drool worthy.

  8. Vanessa says:

    Sarah your photos are just incredible and it sounds like you had such a fun time getting all “country-fied”! LOL! I’m definitely going to make that salad for my parents who are coming from out of state to join us for Thanksgiving. Thanks for taking us along on your adventure and for the awesome recipe! :-)

    • Sarah | Offbeat & Inspired says:

      Thanks! I’m definitely working on getting country-fied! Next stop – buying cowboy boots! :) Glad you enjoyed the post. I hope your family likes the recipe!

  9. Yum!!! I love a good crunchy salad and this looks delicious! Great pics, too! :)

  10. Tiffany | Offbeat & Inspired says:

    This looks and sounds so great!!! I’ve never cooked with butternut squash before and this has finally pushed me to try it. Definitely making the salad this week! :D

    • Sarah | Offbeat & Inspired says:

      Thanks! You’ll love butternut squash. It’s sweet and smooth and amazing! Let me know what you think about the recipe!

  11. That was a really lovely read, Sarah! You got me at hot coffee and farm, nevermind that delish salad! I am totally going to try it! It sounds so refreshingly different!

    • Sarah | Offbeat & Inspired says:

      Glad you liked it. :) There’s definitely not much better than coffee and farms! Hope you enjoy the salad!

  12. kendra says:

    Hi – I have a silly question. Did you use apple cider or apple cider vinegar for the dressing? Looking forward to serving this on Thanksgiving :) ! Thanks!

    • Sarah | Offbeat & Inspired says:

      I used regular apple cider – the vinegar I used was white wine vinegar. You could sub apple cider vinegar in instead of the white wine vinegar if you want. But that regular apple cider is definitely what makes the dressing. Hope that helps!

  13. [...] hanging out today over at FOLK Magazine & Blog! Head over there to read about my recent farm wanderings that inspired a delicious recipe for Butternut Squash [...]

  14. [...] week, I shared over at FOLK Magazine & Blog about my recent wanderings at Heritage Prairie Farm. I thought I’d share a few more pictures [...]

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