Making salad when we have turned the corner to fall is not quite the straightforward matter it is in summer. There are plenty of green tomatoes in the market this time of year, cut off before their prime. These are great for frying or pickles, but not so much for salads. There are green peppers, but no cucumbers. And the greens trend hearty—chard, kale, collards, cabbage—rather than leafy and delicate. I do think that while salads in this season present a greater challenge, there are also great rewards in combining these more substantial vegetables.
Thursday evening, faced with a potluck lunch at work and Ty’s parents coming into town, I found myself pulling out everything from my trip to the downtown CitySeed market on Wednesday. Bags of chard, squashes, arugula, pears, eggplants, apples, turnips, all rearranged themselves into a manageable chorus (heard mostly in my head) and I started cooking. The squash and chard singled themselves out for salad for the potluck.
I had farro on hand, and I do think it’s best in this type of salad, but you could also use reconstituted bulgar, wheat berries, quinoa, or another hearty grain. I love farro because it is chewy and, to me, it tastes like fall. It absorbs dressings beautifully while retaining its own character. I threw raisins into this; you could also use dried cranberries. And if you wanted, I think some diced tart apple or pear would be great in this salad as well. It’s a pattern for fall and winter salads that you can follow until spring appears, and with it tender lamb’s lettuce and Claytonia. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Chard, butternut squash, farro + goat cheese salad
- 1 bunch (mine was 10 ounces) Swiss chard, sliced into thin ribbons
- 3 shallots, finely sliced
- 3 cups butternut squash, cut in 3/4-inch dice
- 3 cups cooked farro* (you can substitute cooked quinoa or other grains)
- 3 ounces goat cheese
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- coarse salt, to taste
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 425 F. In a small bowl, mix together raisins, vinegar, honey, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, plus about 1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt. Stir thoroughly and let it sit while you prepare the rest of the salad.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, toss butternut squash cubes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of coarse salt and a few grinds of pepper. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and place in hot oven until well browned and cooked through. Cubes should pierce easily with a knife. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a bit.
3. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet until it shimmers. Add shallots and saute until golden brown. Add the ribbons of chard, and stir to coat completely with olive oil. Sprinkle with a few pinches of coarse salt. When greens have collapsed a bit and are a bright emerald green color, turn off the heat.
3. When chard, squash and farro are no longer hot, but still warm, assemble the salad. In a large bowl or serving dish, place the farro and chard mixture. Add the raisin mixture and mix very thoroughly using a large spatula or tongs. Take your time here to distribute the dressing thoroughly. Taste for seasoning and add salt or pepper, or more vinegar or olive oil if needed.
4. Add the roasted squash and combine a bit, leaving most on the top of the salad. Crumble the goat cheese over. You can hold the salad in the refrigerator overnight, or serve it right away.
* Farro is an ancient grain that you can find at Anson Mills. Used widely in Italy, you can sometimes find it in New Haven at Skappo Merkato at the corner of Orange and Crown, or at Liuzzi’s. To make farro, soak 1 1/4 cups farro overnight by covering it in 3 cups boiling water and letting it rest at least 8 hours. Then, bring to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes until tender but still chewy and springy. (I taste it often after 25 minutes until it is done.) Drain and spread out in a colander or on a sheet tray to cool.