Monday, October 22, 2012

Acorn Squash Apple Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

Living away from your family can be hard. More than anything I just miss the normal stuff. Hanging out on a Sunday afternoon or someone helping me fix random things around the apartment. Though I've lived hundreds of miles from my parents and brothers for the better part of a decade, I'm so lucky to have a few cousins here in Chicago. They just "get" what it is to be in our family... loud, cheesy jokes and all. We know that its special to have one another, so we try to make an effort to have "family dinner" every few weeks.  

This Saturday night my cousin Michael made KILLER ribs for us and it was requested that I bring a salad. Maybe it was all of the gorgeous foliage, but I couldn't resist apples and squash. Maple vinaigrette and walnut give the punctuation to make this expression of fall complete. 

Michael's roommate Dale joined us for dinner too. He's not the most lively of party guests, but it makes up for it in good looks. 

Ingredients are simple, but flavorful and oh so seasonal. 

The vinaigrette uses olive oil for fat, apple cider vinegar for bitterness and maple syrup for sweetness. You can make any vinaigrette with that simple formula -- fat, bitter and sweet. Add salt and pepper for the finish.

Acorn squash is sliced and simply roasted until tender. To easily remove the skins afterward, put the hot squash into a zip top bag and allow to steam. The skins will come off easier than my heels at the end of the day.

Whether your family is blood or just great friends, always be thankful for them. If you're fortunate enough to spend more time laughing together than arguing -- consider yourself especially blessed. I know I do.

Acorn Squash Apple Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
For salad
1 acorn squash
2 Honeycrisp apples, chopped
1 6oz bag baby spinach
1/4 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

For vinaigrette
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut acorn squash in half and use spoon to scoop out seeds. Thinly slice acorn squash cross ways. Place slices on cookie sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in oven 10-15 minutes or until fork tender. 

Toss spinach, apple walnuts and cooled acorn squash. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients and toss with salad. Serve immediately.

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