August 21, 2012

Brussels Sprout, Leek, and Squash Salad

I'm obsessed with the combination of sweet winter squash (and pumpkin and sweet potato) with grassy, herbal, woodsy fresh sage. I've done it in dessert (pumpkin cake with sage ice cream), in soup (squash soup finished with sage cream), and here it is in salad form.

I like my salads to have a nice variety of textures and complementary flavors that still make sense together and don't overwhelm the palate. I usually think of the main flavors I want first (in this case, squash and sage), followed by the right leaf delivery medium (shredded raw Brussels sprouts and a little red cabbage, which hold up nicely to the warm squash; you don't want anything that will wilt easily), something savory (usually a cheese or nut, in this case, toasted pecans or walnuts), a member of the onion family (often raw or pickled red or sweet onion, but in this case, leeks), and finally, something to tie everything together; the sweet/tart cherries do the trick here.

Raw Brussels sprouts, especially when finely shredded, basically taste like what they are: tiny cabbages. For those who fear them, think of this more like a slaw. You could substitute cabbage if you want, but the compact, dark green heads have a nuttier flavor that really works here.

For the Salad

  • Raw Brussels sprouts, shredded (about 3/4 cup per serving)
  • Raw purple cabbage, shredded (about 1/4 cup per serving)
  • Raw leeks; dark green tops removed, sliced into rings (about 1/4 cup per serving)
  • 1 whole butternut (or other winter) squash; peeled and seeded
    • Olive oil, salt, pepper, and brown sugar (for roasting)
  • Raw whole pecans or walnuts
  • Dried cherries
  • Sage Vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • Fresh sage, to garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Dice the squash into about 1/4-inch cubes. Line a sheet pan with foil and/or parchment paper; drizzle with a small amount of olive oil to cover. Put squash on pan and season with salt, pepper, and 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (or maple syrup/honey/agave/etc.) Drizzle with another tablespoon of olive oil to moisten and toss until evenly coated.
  3. Roast squash, turning occasionally, until cooked through and starting to caramelize; 20-30 minutes.
  4. When squash is finished, turn oven down to 300F; leave squash in oven.
  5. Place raw nuts on a sheet pan and place in oven; toast until desired nuttiness, about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Remove squash and nuts from oven and set aside.
  7. Assemble salad: mix Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and leeks in salad bowls or one large bowl; toss with desired amount of vinaigrette. Top salad with squash cubes, cherries, nuts, and some julienned fresh sage.
For the Vinaigrette
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar (or white wine/apple cider/champagne vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey/agave/etc.)
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2-4 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh sage leaves
  • 3/4 cup olive oil (or grapeseed/walnut/canola oil)
  1. Place all ingredients except oil in a food processor and blitz until smooth. (Alternately, finely mince the garlic and sage and whisk all ingredients in a bowl.)
  2. With motor running, drizzle oil in slowly until completely incorporated. (Alternately, drizzle oil in very slowly while whisking constantly until completely incorporated.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings (salt/pepper/sugar/sage) if desired.