How often do we read some article about how meaningful it is to cook with the seasons? But winter can test those good intentions.
You try and make a meal out of two rutabagas and a turnip.
But hey, I'm not really that curmudgeonly about winter. I love cold-weather cooking, in fact. And I like a challenge.
Making a salad in the warm months is an exercise in greediness and narrowing down choices. Our bowls overfloweth. But this time of year, the pickings get slimmer. Time for those creative juices to flow: We might think about including a cooked ingredient or two in a salad, and maybe some cold-weather fruit.
In this salad, beautiful, sweet, orange, butternut squash gets roasted with some slightly — but appealingly — bitter radicchio. Roasting sweetens up the lettuce a bit, and the squash too. When cooled, they are mixed with some assertive endive, tart apple and earthy chickpeas.
You can choose between red wine or balsamic vinegar for the dressing. Either will amp up the tartness, and the balsamic will add a little sweetness as well.
The ricotta salata is the amazing finishing touch. It is an Italian cheese that should be a lot more popular than it is. Ricotta salata is made from the whey of sheep's milk. It has an ivory color, a lovely saltiness and a firm, crumbly texture. If you can't find it, a cup of crumbled feta would do fine. You could also use goat cheese, but I might sprinkle that over the top of the salad so it stays distinct and doesn't mush into the rest of the dish.
Chopped Winter Salad
Start to finish: 50 minutes
1 pound cubed (3/4-inch) butternut squash
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large head radicchio, quartered and cored, and each quarter sliced in thirds crosswise
1/4 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 large heads endive, sliced cross-wise into 1/2-inch slices
1 (15.5 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 green apple, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup slivered ricotta salata
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, and toss well. Spread out into a single layer, and roast for 15 minutes, until almost tender. Remove from the oven, add the radicchio, toss again, and spread out again into a single layer. Roast for another 8 to 10 minutes until the squash is tender, but still firm, and the radicchio is wilted. Remove and let cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl whisk together the vinegar, remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper. Add the cooled squash and radicchio, endive, chickpeas, apple, and ricotta salata, and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Nutrition information per serving: 305 calories; 145 calories from fat; 16 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 21 mg cholesterol; 282 mg sodium; 31 g carbohydrate; 11 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 11 g protein.