A Seriously Delicious Roasted Squash Salad. . .
That will leave you with few regrets but delicious leftovers. Plus, beautiful pears = beautiful salad.
AUTUMN CONFUSES ME, as I have mentioned here before, quite recently. I love it, but I’ll never understand why it gets as much attention as it does. All those candy-corny signifiers shouting at us that the season is changing—it’s changing! Even if you live in Miami, the grocery stores still throw those orange and brown tissue-paper leaves everywhere and install unscary scarecrows wearing fall jackets.
The clamor promises that something exciting is about to start—or even end. But unless you’re entering fourth grade and getting new school clothes and supplies, what really happens? Nothing. You get all hopped up on nostalgia-triggered expectations only to find, long after the leaves have dropped from the trees, that you’re still just you.
You continue to do what you were already doing, with the addition of getting much, much colder when you leave the house, depending on where you live. And, unless you’re a White Walker, how is that fun?
(I am aware that there are people who “love the cold,” which they will tell you with the adrenaline grin of a downhill ski racer. I knew a lot of them when I lived in Chicago, but when I saw them on the street during frigid snowstorms, as we were trudging through slush and being pelted by icy matter, their sporting attitude seemed to have abandoned them. They didn’t stop on the sidewalk to enter a leisurely exchange about the beauty of winter. They waved and rushed on by, with every part of their body covered except their eyes and nostrils.)
Anyway, the flip side of the promise of autumnal metamorphosis—and I realize that this may be specific to me— is that it is underpinned with a sense of regret. Exactly what have I accomplished since the last time I carved a pumpkin and bought decorative gourds and multicolored corn? What if this is my last year on this planet and I just let it slip by like all the others, without ever having constructed a croquembouche or moved to Australia (which is something I think about often).
So I tend to just go ahead and set aside most of Autumn to take stock of my failures for the year and—what the hell; why not—my entire life. Sometimes I’ll also jot down regrets I plan to have in the future. (If you think this has to do with the fact that I’m in the autumn of my life, anyone who knows me will tell you I’ve kept a running diary of regrets since I was about 12 years old.)
But this year, part of my intense stock-taking has to do with the fact that I’m moving next week, to a place with a yard for my dog. I’ve written about the emotional perils of moving before, and my feelings haven’t changed.
And while all of this might seem like a useless, self-flagellating exercise, I find that thinking about regrets I might someday have helps me cut some of them off at the pass. Even if it’s just in the kitchen, where my tangled relationship to winter squash has always been a small issue.
While I was packing up some kitchen equipment last week, I noticed that I had an acorn squash and two butternuts on my counter that I had no plans for, and my future regret was that I’d do what I always do, which is buy it because I admire its beauty but let it sit on the counter until it begins to look haggard, then split it and roast it and eat it with butter and lemon. Which is fine.
But I decided I had to give at least one of these squash—a butternut— its due in my kitchen for once, by incorporating it into a salad. I’ve put squash in salad before, of course. But I wanted to do more than simply use it up just so I didn’t have to tote it across town next week. I also wanted to honor it with a showstopper of a salad, which I think I have for you today.