Butternut and Bocconcini Salad

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday of the year. In our everyday hustle and bustle, we often forget to give thanks as much as we should. Autumn is a strong reminder of the bounty for which I am thankful and what better way to celebrate it than to have close friends and family over for a Thanksgiving feast.

I prepare a fairly traditional Thanksgiving meal of rosemary roasted turkey, sausage and mushroom stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce. Although I can rarely stray away from these much requested old stand-bys, I vary what I put in my gravy (this year it's wild mushrooms) and cranberry sauce (laced with orange and fennel seed) and I try to find interesting new side dishes and desserts. This year I made a Butternut and Bocconcini Salad from the newly released Bonnie Stern book, Friday Night Dinners.

At the shop, both staff and customers have been keenly anticipating the arrival of Bonnie Stern's latest. The book is filled with Bonnie's trademark flavourful and interesting recipes and she groups recipes into menus for everyday meals as well as celebration meals.

For the salad, I picked up a sturdy fall salad mix of various kale, chard, fava tips and broccolini and a kabocha squash from the Trout Lake Farmers Market. Kabocha (similar to hubbard squash) has a deeper orange colour and a more dry texture than butternut. I sliced the squash into 1/4" slices rather than leaving it in wedges and decreased the roasting time to 20 minutes.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Butternut and Bocconcini Salad from Friday Night Dinners by Bonnie Stern

2 lb (1 kg) butternut squash, halved, seeded and cut in wedges
2 Tbsp (25 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt
1 Tbsp (15 mL) fresh thyme

2 Tbsp (30 mL) balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp (30 mL) port
1 tsp (5 mL) dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
1/3 cup (75 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (50 mL) pumpkin seed oil or extra-virgin olive oil

12 cups (3 L) mixed salad greens or baby spinach
8 oz (250 g) bocconcini cheese, drained and broken into chunks
2 Tbsp (30 mL) shredded fresh sage
1 cup (250 mL) pumpkin seed praline, optional

Arrange squash, skin side down, on a baking sheet. Drizzle or brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and thyme. Roast in a preheated 400 degree F (200 degree C) oven for about 30 minutes, or until tender and browned.
To prepare dressing, in a bowl, whisk together vinegar, Port, mustard, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and pumpkin seed oil.
Place greens in a large shallow bowl. Toss with dressing and top with squash, cheese, sage and praline, if using.

Makes 8 servings