Autumnal Recipe: Roasted Squash and Arugula Salad with Pecans, Bacon, and Goat Cheese

This salad, with its deep flavors and rich ingredients, is a perfect example of autumn's most delicious offerings. In fact, it would almost be too rich if it wasn't for a bright splash of sherry vinegar and the light, spicy green of arugula. Bring it to a buffet, pot luck or serve it as a light supper on its own.
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This recipe was inspired by Suzanne Goin from her book Sunday Suppers at Lucques. I used less bacon and more shallots, swapped out the Roncal for some Sonoma goat cheese, the arugula for dandelion greens and generally messed with the proportions. Additionally, I served this at room temperature instead of slightly warm as called for in the original recipe. Having made it by the book several times, I have to say that this version, which came about more from what happened to be in my cupboards than any hope to improve on the original, is just as tasty.

I brought this salad to a pot luck which meant I did most of the cooking at home. I poured the dressing/shallots in the bottom of my serving bowl, placed the roasted squash and bacon on top and covered with foil. I brought along a bag of pre-washed arugula, a package of goat cheese, some fresh thyme and the toasted nuts. When I arrived, I simply tossed everything together and served it up to much acclaim.

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Roasted Squash and Arugula Salad with Pecans, Bacon, and Goat Cheese

serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup pecans
neutral oil such as canola
flaky sea salt such as Maldon
1-2 pound butternut squash
1/2 pound of applewood smoked bacon
1/2 cup slivered shallots
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
7-ounce bag arugula
several sprigs fresh thyme
8-ounce package goat's cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Toss the pecans with a little canola oil and sea salt, and roast until fragrant, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and seed the squash and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Toss with a little canola oil on two baking sheets (do not crowd) and sprinkle with more of the sea salt. When the pecans are done, remove from the oven, raise the temperature to 425°F and roast the squash until it's soft and the edges are deep brown.

While the squash roasts, cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces and fry it up in a large skillet. You may need to do this in two batches, pouring off the fat (be sure to save it!) in-between. Drain the bacon on paper towels or on a brown paper bag.

Keep the pan hot and make sure there are about 6 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan. Add the shallots and saute over medium heat until they soften. Turn off the heat and add the vinegar. Swirl to combine. Add a few turns of the pepper mill's worth of fresh black pepper.

The salad can be served now, with the ingredients still warm, or at room temperature. To assemble: In a large bowl, toss the dressing with the squash and bacon. Add several large handfuls of the arugula. Strip about three or four sprigs of thyme leaves into the bowl and add the pecans (which should be broken into pieces if they're not already.) Toss gently. Dot with the goat cheese (you may not need all of it) and serve.

Related: How to Cut a Butternut Squash

(Images: Dana Velden)

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