Fall Salad– Pomegranates and Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese, Oh My!

You’ve probably seen iterations of this salad floating around the internet.  I was inspired by a sweet potato and pomegranate dish I spotted on Two Peas and Their Pod a few weeks ago (another saladless salad a la miss Ellie), but I’ve seen a lot of root veggie-pomegranate combos going on.  So naturally I decided to make mine special with goat cheese.  Specifically, with peppery crusted goat cheese rounds baked to ooey goodness in the oven.  I know, I’m really terrible.  Somehow I don’t think you’ll be mad at me too long.

If I give you one of these will you forgive me?

If I give you one of these will you forgive me?

First, let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start) with the butternut squash.  I’ll have you know it hurt me a little bit to make that Sound of Music reference given the NBC broadcast last night.  Yes, I’m one of those haters.  Whatever.  The Sound of Music was THE movie of my childhood, and I’m cool with stage productions of it, but you don’t broadcast another version of it on national television unless it is PERFECT.  Audra McDonald will never do any wrong in my eyes, but even she could not save that sinking ship.  And I don’t even dislike Carrie Underwood, but girl cannot do Maria justice.  I don’t care if Julie Andrews is cool with it, I’M not.  And you have to admit, the duet with Audra and Carrie showed exactly why Carrie Underwood couldn’t carry that part.  She’s a decent enough country/pop singer, but Broadway is a different animal.  And let’s just not talk about her acting.  Enough not-so-nice things have probably already been said.

Phew!  Ok, sorry.  That needed to happen.  ANYway, back to squash.  About which I have considerably weaker and fewer feelings.  Not that I don’t love it, but you know.

I must indeed have done something good to deserve you, butternut squash (the SoM reference train has left the station and there's no stopping it now)!

I must indeed have done something good to deserve you, butternut squash (the SoM reference train has left the station and there’s no stopping it now)!

A few weeks back  I discussed roasting butternut squash whole for mashing.  Shockingly enough, it’s not all that different to roast it in chunks (mind=blown, I know).  Preheat your oven to 400.  Cut your whole Butternut Squash in half and slice off the ends so it sits flat on your cutting board.  Peel (my veggie peeler wasn’t up to the job, so I used a knife), making sure to remove the entirety of the fibrous outside– you don’t want any green veins or tough, lighter flesh left on there.  Chop into 1-inch chunks and toss with a few T. Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet (I line mine with aluminum foil because I’m lazy and this means I– well, BF– won’t have to wash it) and bake for about 45 minutes or until fork-tender.  I only used about 2/3 of my squash for our salads, so the rest went into risotto the next night (the recipe for which can be found here).

Pomegranate Arils

Can we all just take a minute to stare at how beautiful this fruit is?  Like, seriously.  SO pretty.  Almost as pretty as it is delicious.  I had a bowl of pomegranate arils for lunch the other day and it was one of my better life decisions.  ALSO (bonus quasi-recipe, lucky you), pomegranates are kiiiind of awesome in a peanut butter sandwich.  Peanut butter and berry sandwiches are a great way to get some fruit sweetness without all the sugar in jelly/jam, but I can tell you firsthand that pomegranates work really well too.  Just watch out for arils trying to make a break for it!

I cannot recall to save my life whether or not I’ve already discussed the best way to get seeds from a pomegranate and I’m too lazy to go back and look, so sorry if I’m repeating myself here.  Cut the pomegranate in half and squeeze it over a colander.  Squeeze it all the way around, and be fairly firm about it.  You’ll see some juice come out with the seeds, but don’t worry– there’s still plenty in there!  Then use the back of a spoon or your hand to tap all around the outside.  The seeds will come pouring out, and for a minute you might think it’s raining pomegranate arils (which, umm, yum and yes please).   Pick out any icky bits (a very technical term) that have fallen out with the arils, and repeat with the other half.  Voila!

Baked Goat Cheese Round

Now about that goat cheese.  First, preheat the oven to 450.  You’ll need an egg, some Panko bread crumbs (about 1/4 c.), a few ounces of goat cheese, and some pepper.  If you wanted to put honey and/or basil in there too, I wouldn’t stop you.  I just didn’t have any around!  Beat the egg in a small bowl, and have a small bowl of Panko next to it.  Mash the pepper (or whatever else you’ve got going on spicewise) into the goat cheese.  Roll about a T. of cheese into a ball and roll first in the egg wash and then the bread crumbs.  Repeat with remaining cheese and bake for around 8 minutes, checking frequently in the home stretch to make sure they don’t burn!

Butternut Squash Salad

To assemble the salad, place the squash, pomegranate seeds, and goat cheese rounds on a bed of arugula (or lettuce of your choice).  I added some walnuts at the last minute, and was pretty happy with that decision– next time I’ll plan ahead and toast them first.

Roasted Butternut Squash Pomegranate Goat Cheese Salad

You might be wondering why this salad doesn’t have a dressing.  To be honest, I don’t often use dressing on my salads, unless the flavors call for one (a la the Asian salad I’ll be posting next).  This salad’s got a TON of good stuff going on, and it’s definitely not lacking in flavor factor, so why add something more?  Plus, then you can tell yourself how healthy you’re being.  You know what’s even healthier than a reduced-fat vinaigrette?  No dressing at all.  BOOM.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer fall in love and fawn over their chemistry.