My Favorite Season / Autumn Arugula, Onion + Squash Salad
The time of year I long for all year 'round is finally upon us: fall. That delightful briskness is in the air; the trees are exploding like fireworks with brilliant leaves of green, yellow, orange and fiery, glowing red; I'm swaddling myself in big, comfy sweaters with the sleeves pulled over my hands; I'm sipping hot coffee with soy nog out of oversized mugs; and it is at last time for baking pumpkin bread and roasting root vegetables with warm spices.
Fall makes me exorbitantly happy. I've really needed that.
Last year the season completely passed me by, as I was embroiled in conflict, fleeing my home and fighting an epic battle for divorce. All the seasons I normally love just made me sad. This year, I am reclaiming fall and the winter holidays. I'm swooning over leaves with my mom and girlfriends; I'm sharing fresh-baked pumpkin bread with my best friends downstairs; I'm sampling cozy craft brews at chilly festivals with friends and family alike; I will host holiday parties, decorate trees, bake Christmas cakes and cookies and make festive meals for the ones I love.
I'm making big changes. And I am changing in real, measurable and positive ways. Every day I feel a little healthier, a little happier, a little closer to living the life I've always wanted. I feel stronger and smarter and more solid. Fall is a time for transformation, and I'm transforming into a better person, too.
I threw this dish together on a whim after some beautiful heaps of orange and yellow delicata squash caught my eye at PCC. I tossed the squash with some warm autumn spices; added a Middle Eastern flair with ras el hanout, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and a crumbled feta finish; brightened it up with peppery baby arugula; and added some final fall touches with toasted pecans and balsamic reduction. This meal warms you inside and out, and it's such a lovely taste of fall in a bowl, I have to admit I made it three times in the past week! Best of all, it's simple enough for a weeknight meal
Autumn Arugula, Onion + Squash Salad
1 small to medium delicata squash, diced
1 small red onion, cut into small wedges
Healthy sprinkle (about 1/2 tsp.) ras el hanout spice blend
Healthy sprinkle (about 1/2 tsp.) pumpkin pie spice blend (I use this one from World Spice Merchants)
Small pinch cayenne pepper
Healthy drizzle of pomegranate molasses (1/2 - 1 Tbsp)
About 1 Tbsp. EVOO (enough to coat squash well), plus more for drizzling at the end
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup crumbled feta, or to taste
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Large handful baby arugula
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, cooked on low heat for 20-30 min until reduced by about a third
Handful of pecan halves, toasted
Small handful of Italian parsley leaves, minced (optional, but recommended)
Preheat the oven to 400º F while you prepare the squash and onions. Toss in a large bowl with the olive oil, spices, salt and pepper and pomegranate molasses, then roast on a baking sheet in the top third of the oven for 25-40 minutes, until vegetables are golden brown and starting to crisp at the edges.
While vegetables are roasting and filling your kitchen with delightful scents of fall, reduce the balsamic in a small pan on the stovetop and toast your pecans, either in a cast iron skillet or in the oven. Toss the baby arugula in a bowl with another drizzle of olive oil, mince the parsley and chop the toasted pecans roughly. When the vegetables are done, add to the bowl, sprinkle with parsley, feta and pecans, add a squeeze of lemon juice, drizzle with balsamic reduction to your liking and add a little more salt and pepper, if necessary.
Most importantly, enjoy your meal and the season! Serves one heartily. Can be easily doubled to feed more.