Radiant jewel tones make this versatile salad as stunning as it is healthy. It’s equally perfect on a holiday table or paired with a simple protein any night of the week. Feel free to substitute any winter squash (or even sweet potatoes) or use dried cranberries in place of pomegranate!
The process of peeling and chopping hard winter squash is no easy task, which adds to the appeal of delicata squash. As its name suggests, it’s smaller and has a more delicate skin than many of its seasonal sisters.
When cooked, the cream-colored skin of this cylindrical vegetable (technically a fruit because the seeds are housed on the inside), which often sports pretty stripes of green or orange, softens and becomes edible. So not only does the smaller size make it easier to cut…you don’t even have to peel it!
I’ve been enjoying the lovely flavors of Pumpkin Maple Vinaigrette in a wide variety of salads recently, so when I saw the complementary fall vegetables and radiant jewel tones in a gorgeous salad at Cookie + Kate, I had to try.
If you don’t have a pomegranate on hand, dried cranberries provide a lovely option ― and those who enjoy a slightly sweeter salad may simply prefer the latter over the somewhat tangier pomegranate arils (which is basically just a fancy name for seeds).
For those who enjoy the juicy, tart crunch of pomegranate but don’t like the effort of removing the arils (and prefer not to pay top dollar for a container of fresh, ready-to-eat arils), there is an option.
I was initially skeptical, but frozen pomegranate arils maintain their juicy crunch once thawed. Their small size also means that they thaw quickly.
I’m going on a tangent, but I like to thaw a small dish of frozen pomegranate in the fridge overnight and then stir into my fall/winter iteration of my favorite yogurt bowls. I add chopped banana to the bowl, a palmful of blueberries, and just enough yogurt to bind. Then I sprinkle granola on top (usually this one).
It’s creamy, crunchy, naturally sweet, super healthy, super easy, endlessly flexible and so darn good! (Now back to the salad…)
If you can’t find delicata squash, no worries. Your favorite winter squash ― or even sweet potatoes ― could be used instead.
And as with many of my go-to recipes, substitutions abound are easy to make. Try goat cheese in place of feta, or skip the cheese entirely for a vegan salad. I’ve made this salad several times with dried cranberries instead of pomegranate; dried cherries could be used as an option, and mixing in some chopped dried apricots would likely be wonderful, too.
When it comes to the greens, mixed baby greens and baby spinach are my go-tos, although you may find appeal in peppery arugula or mild butter or leaf lettuce ― or a blend of several.
I adore the crunch provided by a heavy sprinkle of salted pepitas, although pistachios, pecans, walnuts and almonds are also complementary. Candied pecans or smokehouse almonds ratchet up the flavor, and as is often the case in the world of salad, a mix of nuts and seeds is fair game, even encouraged!
A vibrant salad featuring delicata squash, pomegranate, mixed greens, pepitas and feta tossed in a simple but flavor-packed dressing. Fresh-from-the-oven squash provides a lovely warm counterpoint to the cool salad, but you may roast it in advance and let it sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours for added convenience. The remaining salad ingredients may be assembled several hours ahead and refrigerated. Reserve the dressing and toss when ready to serve.
- 2 medium delicata squash, about 1 1/4 pounds total
- 1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil (or spray)
- Kosher salt
- 8-10 cups mixed baby greens (may use baby spinach, arugula or a mix)
- 2/3 cup pomegranate arils (or 1/2 cup or so of dried cranberries)
- 1/3 cup salted or toasted pepitas (may sub 1/2 cup or so of chopped pecans, walnuts, pistachios or a mix of nuts and seeds)
- 3 to 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (3/4-1 cup; may substitute goat cheese or omit for vegan salad)
- Pumpkin Maple Vinaigrette or your favorite maple or honey balsamic dressing (like this one)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Wash the squash and scrape off any tough bits of skin with a knife. (No need to peel; the skin of delicata squash softens when cooked and is edible.) Slice the squash into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds from each round. Drizzle the squash with a generous tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Use your fingers to lightly coat all surfaces of the squash with olive oil. (Optionally, you may spray both sides with oil mister.) Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the squash is tender and golden. No need to flip unless the bottoms are nicely browned; check after about 20 minutes.
- Once the squash has had a few minutes to cool, combine the greens, pomegranate (or dried fruit), pepitas (and/or nuts), crumbled cheese and squash in a serving bowl. Toss with enough dressing to lightly coat, and serve immediately.
This salad will be vegan if the feta is omitted. (Serve on the side if some would enjoy it.) To make it nut-free, opt for pepitas (aka, pumpkin seeds) or other seeds like sunflower and even toasted sesame, hemp, and/or chia seeds.
Nutritional profile: 8 servings. Calories per serving: 140, Total fat 9 gm, Saturated fat 1.5 gm, Cholesterol 4 mg, Sodium 240 gm, Total Carbohydrates 9 gm, Dietary fiber 3 gm, Protein 3 gm. If you skip the feta, you’ll also reduce the total fat content to 7.5 gm, Saturated Fat 1 gm, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 115 mg
Nutrition Tips: The recipe analysis above uses half of the pumpkin vinaigrette, or about ½ cup, which conveniently leaves plenty of leftover for another night. I actually tend to use a little less than ½ cup, so if you prefer a lighter coating of dressing, you could shave off a few more calories without skimping on flavor－and stretch the dressing to accommodate three salads! If desired, you could also try using reduced fat feta cheese instead of full fat feta.
Spiced or candied pecans ⇧⇧ make a delightful addition to this and other salads with apples, pears, roasted root veggies, crumbled cheeses, cranberries, etc. They also make a thoughtful hostess or holiday gift.