Bitter Greens, Roasted Butternut Squash, Crispy Prosciutto and Feta Salad with Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Serves: 2 as a main; 4 as a side
By Heidi Allison
This hearty winter salad is perfect for the holidays—it’s easy, quick and made in the toaster oven, freeing up valuable real estate in the big oven for this season’s turkey, standing prime rib, ham, stuffing, casseroles and pies. This beguiling dish, with a lovely play of salty, sweet and bitter, is a beautifully balanced and sophisticated main or side!
The foundation of this salad is spicy greens, which showcases the sweet, roasted squash and creamy, salty feta cheese. The residual heat and oil from the caramelized squash gently wilts and tempers the spicy arugula and softens the feta—without cooking it. It’s crucial to use a soft, creamy feta, such as Bulgarian or French, in this recipe to get the right texture, or, you can substitute with a good-quality goat cheese. Your best bet is not to use a Greek feta – it’s texture is too dry for this dish.
The Creole seasoning salt, sprinkled on top of the butternut squash right before roasting, adds depth and complexity to the dish with a just a hint of spicy heat— perfect counterpoint flavors to complement the sweet tastes of caramelized squash and aged balsamic vinegar. Topped with salty, crispy prosciutto, this is an adult dish that even kids will love.
Don't bypass this new technique of par-cooking the butternut squash in a microwave for just 3 minutes before cutting and peeling—it will forever change how you cook and prep this difficult veggie. This method gently softens the tough, hard outer skin, making it easier to peel and cut -- without cooking it.
5 slices nitrate-free prosciutto
1 medium butternut squash
, about 2 pounds
1 1/2 tsp. Creole seasoning salt (I like Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish Magic)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. California estate extra virgin olive oil (buttery—not peppery)
2.5 ounces organic arugula, washed and dried
½ cup crumbled French or Bulgarian Feta cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup toasted walnut pieces
Aged, good-quality balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. California estate olive oil
Preheat toaster oven to 400 degrees F. Place 5 slices of prosciutto on a foiled-lined baking pan, and cook for 9 minutes, or until crisp. Remove from toaster oven and allow to cool. Place walnuts in a 250 degree oven and heat till lightly toasted, then remove and set aside on a small plate.
With a fork, pierce the butternut squash 4 times lengthwise, around the entire diameter of the squash. Place squash in a microwave, and heat on high for 3 minutes. Remove and cool for 5 minutes. Cut off 1/2 inch from both ends.
Place the larger end (bowl-side) of squash on a cutting board and cut lengthwise down the middle into 2 halves. Scoop out seeds and stringy membranes, then peel with a vegetable peeler, removing tough outer skin. Dice into 1/3-inch pieces and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pour oil over squash and toss to coat. Place on a foil-lined baking tray, sprinkle with Creole seasoning salt and roast for 40 minutes, or until crisp on outside and soft in center. Remove from heat and allow to cool for several minutes.
Place 2 1/2 ounces (about 1/2 a package) of arugula in a large bowl and add warm, roasted butternut squash. Toss several times to allow oil to lightly coat and wilt the greens. Plate and top with walnut pieces, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp. buttery olive oil per serving and top with freshly ground black pepper, feta cheese and crispy prosciutto, then serve.