I have now been to 3 holiday/Thanksgiving parties and each time I've brought a salad, so I finally was able to photograph one and get it up on the blog! This will be perfect for your Christmas or holiday dinner. It's a great way to get in something healthy. I went to a Friendsgiving and the only things I could eat were the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy (that I made gluten free) and this salad, so it was pretty easy to not over eat! But, when there's lots of options on the table, at least this dish will provide some balance.
I know that this recipe seems like a lot of instructions for just a salad, but it's jus because there's a bit of prep for each of the items. However, none of it is difficult, and you can serve everything raw and skip a lo of prep which will make it easier, although the flavor won't be quiteee as yummy ;)
I made this salad with acorn squash the first time and kabocha squash the second. I much preferred the acorn, but butternut would also work well. If you wanted to take a short cut, you could easily buy the pre-cut butternut squash squares they sell at the grocery store and either sauté them up until tender or bake them and then let them cool. I went the long route and roasted the acorn squash, cut it up and let it cool. The first time I served it I served it in slices which looked really pretty, but the skin wasn't quite soft enough because I didn't want to over bake the squash and not be able to have it hold its shape.
I used coconut sugar to caramelize the walnuts, but any sugar of choice will do. You don't even have to add any sugar, just raw walnuts (or other nut of choice like pecans) is totally fine!
I also toasted the pepita seeds to give it more of a smoky flavor, but again, you can use them raw (or buy toasted). You could also use regular pumpkin seeds, but I do recommend toasted for that (either toast them yourself or buy toasted pumpkin seeds). You could also use sunflower seeds instead.
I used my air fryer for the fried shallots, but you can either use them raw or fry them up in a pan with some oil
If pomegranates aren't in season or you can't find any, you could sub either dried cranberries, golden raisins or dried cherries. Something a little sweeter will help balance out the other ingredients, even though the nuts are sweet.
For the dressing, I found some balsamic vinegar at Grocery Outlet and it is the best balsamic vinegar I've ever had. It was $6, normally $20 and I went back and bought another bottle! I didn't have to reduce the dressing much at all because it's already super thick, but if you have a runnier vinegar, you'll need to cook it longer until it reduces to about half.
1 large acorn squash
1 package baby arugula/spinach mix - 142 grams (about 5-6 cups? - I forgot to measure)
1/2 pomegranate, seeds removed
2 medium shallots
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup walnut pieces (if you buy halves/whole, just break them up)
1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or other sugar of choice)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 orange, juiced
1. If you don't buy prepackaged cut up squash, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with edges to catch any drippings with parchment or aluminum. Cut the squash in half and place cut side face down on the sheet. You can also toast the pepitas on the same pan if you are doing so. Just place squash on one side and pepitas on the other. Drizzle pepitas with oil and a sprinkle of salt.
2. Cook the squash for about 30 minutes or until fork tender but not mushy
3. While squash is cooking, remove skin from shallots and slice very thin on the short side, creating circles. If you have an air fryer, spray shallots with a tiny bit of cooking spray, or sprinkle with a tiny bit of oil and cook at 350 degrees for about 7-10 minutes, stirring every couple minutes until nice and golden brown. If you don't have an air fryer, simply set aside the shallots if you're using them raw, or cook them up in an inch of oil for a minute or so on each side until golden brown and remove from heat and set aside.
4. In a small sauce pan, add the 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and orange juice of one orange and cook over low-medium heat until reduced (for runnier vinegar, it will reduce about half, and for thicker, it won't reduce much). This should take about 8-10 minutes. Make sure to whisk frequently so that the bottom doesn't burn. Pour into small bowl and set aside to cool.
5. In a separate small sauté pan, add walnuts and coconut sugar and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 2-3 minutes, or until sugar is melted and coated on the walnuts. Remove from heat onto a small plate or bowl.
6. Remove squash from the oven and let cool. Once cooled, scoop out the seeds and strings and throw away. Cut off the skin and then cut the squash into about 1'' squares.
5. In large serving bowl, add half of the arugula/spinach mix. Add half the pomegrante seeds, pepitas, shallots, squash and walnuts. Then make another layer with the remaining arugula/spinach, pomegranate seeds, pepitas, shallots and walnuts. Serve with dressing on the side (you just need a drizzle since it's very concentrated)