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
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- 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.
- Roast squash, turning occasionally, until cooked through and starting to caramelize; 20-30 minutes.
- When squash is finished, turn oven down to 300F; leave squash in oven.
- Place raw nuts on a sheet pan and place in oven; toast until desired nuttiness, about 10-15 minutes.
- Remove squash and nuts from oven and set aside.
- 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)
- 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.)
- With motor running, drizzle oil in slowly until completely incorporated. (Alternately, drizzle oil in very slowly while whisking constantly until completely incorporated.
- Taste and adjust seasonings (salt/pepper/sugar/sage) if desired.