Chopped Salad with Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

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Looking for something light, but hearty for lunch or dinner?  How about something to serve your vegetarian guests during the holidays? This salad will be your answer.  It is showstopper in color, texture and, most importantly, flavor.

The star of this salad is the butternut squash.; roasted until tender and lightly caramelized.  This squash is high in fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C.  And although is is heavy on the carb scale, it is low on the glycemic index,  making it an excellent addition to your daily nutrition.   It is also referred to as a vegan protein, but you would have to supplement with other lean proteins like...romaine!  Did you know that one head of romaine has 8 grams of protein and is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids.  Yes,  even though it is not talked about much, romaine is considered a superfood.  The other supporting elements in this salad come from an apple (an apple a day...), goat cheese (I love a good cheese), and radicchio. 

Radicchio is kind of a hit or miss for some people because it does have a strong bitter taste.  However, you can weaken that taste in this salad by cutting it into smaller pieces and soaking it in water (you need to wash it anyways).  By cutting it into smaller pieces and soaking it, you create more surface area for the bitter taste to bleed out into the water. (You can also grill or roast radicchio to tame the bitterness, but I'll save that idea for another recipe post.)

Toss all of these lovely mind and body healthy ingredients together with a simple and scrumptious balsamic vinaigrette and you have...Wait, I almost forgot the HAZELNUTS!!  Ok, now you have a powerhouse of a salad!

Some of you might ask, "Can I substitute the goat cheese and hazelnuts with another cheese or nut?" I say, "Of course you can!" 

Here are some nut and cheese combinations that work for my taste buds-
Goat cheese w/ hazelnuts or pistachios
Blue cheese w/ pecans or walnuts
Feta cheese w/ almonds

As always- Make it for you, make it your own! Happy cooking!

Chopped Salad with Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts
serves 4

1 (1 1/2-2 pound) butternut squashed, ,seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup Extra-Virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
3/8 teaspoons Kosher salt
3/8 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 small head radicchio (6-ounces), halved, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces*
1 romaine lettuce heart (6-ounces) washed, dried and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 Honey Crisp (or other sweet and firm apple), cored and cut into matchstick pieces
2-ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (skinned and toasted)

*Soak cut radicchio in cold water for 5 minutes then drain and spin dry.  This will remove some bitterness.

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450° F. Toss squash, 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until well browned and tender, about 20-25, stirring halfway through roasting. Remove sheet from oven and let squash cool for at least 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk mustard, remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons vinegar, remains 1/8 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl.

Add radicchio, romaine and apple to the bowl with dressing and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add squash and goat cheese and lightly toss. Sprinkle the salad with chopped hazelnuts and serve.  Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Cook's Country, Oct./Nov.  2020 


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