I am in Boston right now, visiting my family, and it is Thanksgiving, of course, and we are invited to my father's second cousin Bob's house, where Bob's daughter Julia and her newborn daughter Sylvia will be present, so if you're doing the math, Hugo gets to meet his fourth cousin today, and how many of us can claim to have ever met our fourth cousin? Hugo has been "writing" shopping lists for the baby all week. We are all very excited.
My stepmother Susan and I have made two pies to bring - her fantastic apple tart, which, according to her notes, she's been making at least since the 1970s (it's a tarte sucrée shell filled with freshly made applesauce and topped with thin slices of apples decoratively arranged, then run under the broiler and glazed), and an experiment of sorts, a free-form galette filled with spiced, sliced persimmons (nutmeg, ginger, brown sugar, orange peel).
What I'm really writing to you about today is salad. And while I understand that following the description of two Thanksgiving pies with a post about salad might seem, what's the word, unfair, bear with me. This is no regular salad.
I'm talking about Melissa Clark's recent recipe for a tangle of radicchio and arugula dressed with a tangy, garlicky, creamy dressing (buttermilk! tarragon! lemon juice!) and tossed with slices of delicata squash that have been roasted with honey and chile (or smoked paprika, as I used, in case you have small eaters in your home who don't want to eat 'picy things) until sweet and fudgy.
Sounds good, right? I am here to tell you it is even BETTER than you think it will be. We had it for lunch today (incidentally, it's sort of the perfect pre-Thanksgiving lunch, since it's fresh and satisfying without being too heavy) and basically spent most of lunch exclaiming, out loud, to each other, about how good it was. Bitter greens, sweet-spicy squash, creamy-sour dressing…you see what I mean? Oh, and roasted pecans, too! Soft, crunchy, cool, delicious.
I happen to think delicata squash might be the most delicious squash, sweet and nutty, and it's definitely the easiest to deal with. If you can't find it, I would substitute slices of kabocha squash (or hokkaido, for you Europeans). Melissa calls for smoky chile powder (like New Mexico or chipotle), which will give the squash some lovely heat. I substituted sweet smoked paprika, for that same smoky flavor, but no heat. Whatever you do, make sure you don't skip the dressing, which ties the slightly unwieldy and boisterous greens together with the squash wedges just beautifully. And the roasted pecans! If you don't have them, I guess you could use walnuts, too. Just don't skip the nuts entirely.
And with that, friends, I'm off to have a cup of tea and go give thanks, for, well, everything. For you too. xo
2 delicata squashes (10 ounces/280 grams each), halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch half-moons
1 tablespoon honey
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon smoky chile powder or smoked sweet paprika
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup/80 ml buttermilk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
1 large garlic clove, grated
1 small head radicchio, cored and shredded
4 cups arugula
⅔ cup/85 grams chopped toasted pecans (see note)
1. Heat oven to 425 F/220 C degrees. In a large bowl, toss squash with honey, 3/4 teaspoon salt, chile powder or paprika and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender and golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, lemon juice, tarragon, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and the garlic. Whisk in remaining 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) oil.
3. In a large bowl, combine radicchio, arugula, squash, pecans and scallions. Toss in buttermilk dressing; taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Note: To toast pecans, heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until they deepen in color and turn fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Cool before chopping.