Butternut Squash is in season! By roasting the butternut squash, the flavour is concentrated and turns it into a delicious ingredient to be used in salads or soups.
The recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/roasted-butternut-squash-salad.aspx) with some changes: watercress and romaine lettuce hearts were used instead of escarole (due to availability); fresh thyme was added, the plating and serving style is also different.
Ingredients: (serves 4 as appetizer)
1 Large butternut squash (approximately 3 lbs), 5 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, 6 slices of thick sliced double smoked bacon (cut into 1/2 inch pieces), 2 medium firm ripe pears (Bartlett or Anjou – cleaned, peeled, cored, sliced 1/8 inch thick), 1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (use the nicest one you can get), 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, two romaine lettuce hearts and handful of fresh watercress, 6 oz of Stilton cheese (crumbled).
Position a rack in the centre of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
Cut off the narrow top portion of the squash close to where it widens (reserve the base for other use); peel and slice it into 12 thin (about 1/4-inch) rounds.
Brush both sides of the squash with olive oil (1 Tablespoon) and spread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with rosemary and thyme on both sides.
Roast, turning once only, until softened and browned, approximately 25 minutes (Keep an eye on them!)
Meanwhile in a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to paper towel to drain the fat. (The bacon bits can be prepared earlier; I prefer the “splatter free” method: bacon slices bake in the oven, transfer to plate lined with paper towel to absorb extra fat, after they cool, chop into small pieces)
In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, mustard, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Slowly whisk in the remaining 4 Tablespoons oil; season with more salt and pepper if necessary.
In a large bowl, toss the watercress and romaine lettuce with enough of the vinaigrette to coat lightly, season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the pears and tossed salad greens on 4 large dinner plates, top with butternut squash, add drizzle of vinaigrette, then sprinkle with the bacon and Stilton cheese to serve. Be creative!
Escarole is a variety of endive family, the leaves are broader, paler and less bitter than other members of endive family.
Stilton is an English cheese, Neal’s Yard Stilton was used in this recipe (Purchased from Whole Foods. Stilton cheese is not readily available at any regular supermarket, it’s usually available at specialty cheese/food stores only). Watercress has a peppery taste, very little were used in this recipe.
Bacon from Gelderman Farm (http://www.geldermanfarms.ca/, purchased at the Trout Lake Vancouver Farmer’s Market)