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This delicious and healthy fall or winter salad is excellent served with soup, roast chicken or pork. If you have friends or family who can’t eat mushrooms, you can make this dish without them — it’s still scrumptious and beautiful. This recipe will likely make more sugared walnuts than you will need, but just save them for another salad — or enjoy them yourself while you are roasting the vegetables!
- 2 teaspoons butter
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1½ cups peeled, seeded and cubed (1/2-inch) butternut squash
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 cups quartered mushrooms (cremini, shiitake or small portobellos work best)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 4 cups fresh baby spinach
- ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
- ¼ cup shredded ham, optional (preferably country ham; see note)
- In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, then the walnut pieces. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and quickly transfer nuts onto waxed or parchment paper, separating the walnuts as much as possible. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Set aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- In a small roasting pan, toss together the squash and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper; toss again.
- In a second roasting pan, toss together the mushrooms and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper; toss again.
- Place the pans in the oven and roast the vegetables for 10 minutes.
- Rotate the pans, stir the vegetables and continue roasting for another 5 to 10 minutes (at this point the mushrooms should be done). Remove mushrooms from oven and set aside.
- Continue cooking the squash an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until tender. Let both the squash and mushrooms sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before serving.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- In a large bowl, toss the spinach with half of the dressing (just enough to lightly coat the leaves).
- Divide the spinach among 6 individual salad plates. Arrange ingredients on top of the spinach: roasted squash and mushrooms, cheese, half of the walnuts (save ?the rest for another use) and ham, if desired. Drizzle a bit of the remaining dressing over the top of the salad; season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper.
Make ahead: Sugared walnuts can be made up to 3 days in advance, covered and refrigerated. Dressing can be made up to 24 hours in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using. Butternut squash and mushrooms can be roasted up to 8 hours in advance, covered and kept at room temperature.
Note: This recipe is an updated version of one I posted a few years ago, incorporating a great suggestion from one of my recipe testers – namely, the addition of the sugared walnuts.