Thursday, November 14, 2013

Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash, Feta, and Olive Salad


This is a nice spicy fall salad, filled with the flavors of the Mediterranean. The briny kalamata olives and feta cheese pair well with the spicy warm roasted butternut squash that’s been seasoned with touches of cumin and cayenne pepper and dressed with a red wine and shallot vinaigrette. We found this to be a lovely fall vegetarian lunch or a fine accompaniment to a roasted chicken or pork loin.

I don’t know about you, but I dread dealing with hard winter vegetables such as butternut squash or pumpkin. They’re difficult to cut and a challenge to peel. So I asked the green grocer to cut the butternut squash in half, which prevented me from having to enlist my husband and his trusty long French chef’s knife. Then I relied on a wide peeler to remove the skin. Believe me, a regular thin vegetable peeler would take forever and frustrate you at the same time. The wide peeler, example here from Williams Sonoma, is your best friend when it comes to peeling big hard vegetables. Roasting is definitely the way to cook butternut squash. As you can see in this photo, the high temperature gives it a nice caramelization.


Make sure to find a nice creamy feta cheese that comes in brine (heavily salted water). The dry crumbly feta just won’t get the job done here. It might look okay, but it lacks the taste and texture of the brined cheese.

We learned something the other day about olives. At an Italian market we overheard a customer order a scoop of kalamata olives with pits and Meakin asked him why, since it’s so much more convenient to buy them already pitted. He explained that the olives have more flavor with the pits, because when the pits are removed, the olive is more exposed to the brine and that affects the flavor. Interesting. I was giving up flavor for a short-cut.

Speaking of olives, Bill Granger, whose recipe I’ve adapted here, says if you find store-bought olives a bit too salty for your taste, soak them in water for an hour or two and then drain. If you want marinated olives, pour a little good extra virgin olive oil over them and add green peppercorns, garlic cloves, or other seasonings that suit your taste.

The original recipe calls for pumpkin, so feel free to substitute it or sweet potatoes for the butternut squash. Next time I would cut the olives in half lengthwise to make the olives go further in the dish. This warm and spicy salad is a definite have-again.


Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash, Feta, and Olive Salad
Adapted from Bill’s Food by Bill Granger – serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb, 12 ounces butternut squash, cut into ¾” cubes
3 ½ ounces baby spinach leaves
5 ½ ounces feta cheese in brine, drained and crumbled
20 Kalamata olives, pitted (sliced in half if desired)

Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely sliced or chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Measure the olive oil, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper into a small jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well to combine. Place the squash on a roasting pan large enough to hold the cubes without crowding. Pour the spices over the squash and with your hands, stir the cubes to combine with the spice mix.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender and slightly caramelized. Set aside to cool very slightly, yet still warm, while you assemble the vinaigrette and the salad.

Combine the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well to combine.

Divide the spinach leaves among four serving plates and scatter warm squash, feta and olives over the top. Drizzle each salad with the red wine shallot vinaigrette. Serve right away.



This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, and Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper.

Have a great weekend everyone.

29 comments:

  1. A beautiful salad! This combination is tasty.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. Not only is it healthy, it's so pretty! Te perfect salad for fall.

    xoxoxo

    Sheila

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  3. Your salad is beautiful Sam! I love butternut squash and haven't roasted it yet... Sounds like I need to give it a try! Good advice about the olives too:@)

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  4. Beautiful salad-love all the flavors and colors-so festive for the fall holidays ;)

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  5. Very good tips on the olives Sam for such a delicious fall salad.

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  6. This is a salad after my own heart. Delicious!

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  7. What a gorgeous plate of food, I would feel great after eating it.

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  8. Looks like a healthy fall salad Sam and the squash gives it a burst of color.

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  9. Love that WS peeler. I hate peeling butternut squash too. Great ideas in this post Sam. I was not aware of Bill Granger. Beautiful salad.

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  10. Great salad. I love Bill Granger. That is a great tip about the olives. I made his English muffins (not posted yet) and was very happy.

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  11. Never would have occurred to me to use kalamata olives in that salad, Sam. A marvelous combo. We all hate peeling butternut squash. I use a hammer on the blade of a knife to cut one...keeping my fingers well away. I am a scardy cat!

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  12. I love this recipe Sam. And yes, I actually pass up the squash just at the thought of cutting/peeling/dicing. It's a big job. I've been buying the pre-cubed at a higher price, and never thought about having the store cut it in half. That takes most of the issues out. I must make this one soon. Pinned.

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  13. Sam, the combination looks wonderful! Thank you for the great tips concerning the feta and the olive pits. I love feta but I have always purchased the dry type. I just saw an article somewhere suggesting rinsing capers in the same way you rinse the olives - to get rid of the briny taste. Thank you!

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  14. Oh this looks good. Like you, I hate trying to cut a butternut squash in half. I have a spaghetti squash that I am, frankly, frightened of - it's going to need a chainsaw!

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  15. This is a beautiful looking salad, Sam. Pumpkin, feta and spinach is one of my favourite combos - I love the spices you used to season the pumping and the inclusion of the olives. Yum!

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  16. Sam, I do love the way you cook! these ingredients and flavors are just perfect - I'm doing a fancy dinner tonight and this is on the menu!
    Mary x

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  17. This looks wonderful. I'll have to look into getting a wide peeler -- I hate peeling winter squash.

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  18. I've been away from blogging for awhile, but decided to get online to visit some of my favorites this weekend. This looks so good - I absolutely adore roasted butternut squash - that I just wrote the ingredients down on my grocery list for today! Thanks for the inspiration. :-)

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  19. I love the mediterranean fall flavor idea. Thanks for sharing this great seasonal salad with us on foodie friday.

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  20. Dear Sam, Looks delicious and wonderful as a salad for the Thanksgiving dinner. Blessings dear. Catherine xo

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  21. Hi Sam,
    I just love your salad and will sure be great for our holiday foods.

    Thank you so much for taking the time during this busy season to share your wonderful post with Full Plate Thursday. Have a wonderful weekend and hope to see you again real soon!
    Miz Helen

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  22. Nice seasonings for the squash, a little heat and richness from the cumin and cayenne. The salad seems like a fine balance of flavors.

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  23. I'm with you - the wide peeler is a lifesaver when it comes to squash. We had a bad season for squash at the farm this year. But I do have a Long Island Cheese pumpkin, so I think I could adapt this recipe!

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  24. We have an abundance of squash at the moment and this is a lovely way to use some of it.

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  25. Another great seasonal salad! I feel the same way about the winter squashes, they are delicious but can be difficult to peel. You had the right idea with your grocer.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  26. This is beautiful salad. I love squash! Thank you for the tips - I like the texture of olives but find it very salty.

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  27. ahhh! I love the squash and feta together! YUMMMM! You make salads looks so filling and hearty!

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  28. Congratulations!
    Your recipe is featured on Full Plate Thursday this week. Hope you have a great weekend and enjoy your new Red Plate.
    Miz Helen

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I enjoy reading each and every comment. I appreciate your taking the time to visit my blog and I hope you'll return again soon.
Sam