I love fall's flavors ... especially roasted butternut squash. Combined with an orzo pasta and some microgreens -- your choice of watercress, arugula or any dark green, and you have the lushness of a roasted fall veggie with the lightness of a summer salad. I use fresh sage leaves when roasting the squash and a rich Maytag blue cheese to complement the dish, but you could sub a mild chevre or leave it off for a vegan side dish. This salad holds well and is as good at room temp as it is warm, or even cold from the fridge. If transporting, just add the cold blue cheese when ready to serve. —lorigoldsby
6 to 8
butternut squash, cut into bite-sized cubes
Maytag blue cheese
fresh sage leaves
Fresh cracked pepper and coarse kosher, sea, or alder salt
If you didn't purchase the precut butternut squash, then peel and cube the squash. If you did purchase the precut squash, give it a good rinse and pat dry.
Drizzle the butternut squash with a good quality oil. Salt and pepper to taste. If you have some smoked salt (like alder), you can substitute a pinch of it for regular kosher salt.
Arrange clusters of sage on top of squash. Reserve 2 to 3 sage leaves. If you don't have fresh sage, you can substitute some dried "rubbed sage" -- sprinkle liberally like salt.
Bake at 450 F for 30 to 40 minutes (depending on your cube size) or until golden caramelization and deliciousness occurs.
Cook orzo according to package directions. At my farmer's market there is a vendor that sells an "autumn blend" of tricolor orzo. Boil in approximately 4 cups salted water for 15-17 minutes (normal orzo will probably take much less time -- check your package to be sure). Drain and chill.
Combine cooked butternut squash, pepitas, and orzo and toss. (The leftover oil in the roasting pan will serve as your "dressing" -- use leftover oil in pan to minimally coat orzo). Personally I don't think you need any acid (like lemon or vinegar) because of the "tang" of the blue cheese -- but if you are omitting the cheese, you may want to try a few splashes of a good balsamic vinegar.
Add crumbled blue cheese (or feta or chevre or omit cheese) and choice of greens. Add a few chiffonaded strips of fresh sage as a garnish.
I learned to cook with my Gran. I can still see her reading a recipe and figuring out how she would make it better. She was fearless about substituting ingredients--but also knowledgeable. She approached food in the same way she built her antique business--appreciate quality ingredients and workmanship, but don't be a snob. I think I carry those same beliefs in my approach to cooking. I love family style dinners, I love a fancy ladies' luncheon with my wedding china, or a backyard seafood boil to celebrate my husband's birthday...I love to share food with others.