- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I have a tendency to concentrate my culinary energy on planning the all-important Thanksgiving menu and don’t always give much thought to the rest of the meals for the long holiday weekend.

However, if you have a houseful of company, as we will this year, there will be several more days of feasting on the schedule after the holiday meal.

Like most cooks, I count on leftover turkey to anchor many of these lunches and suppers.

Our roasted bird’s remains get sliced and fashioned into Dagwood-style sandwiches, cubed and added to soup and sauced and combined with pasta. But I am always searching for other dishes to complement turkey leftovers.

A colorful salad that I have made several times this fall seems to be a perfect fit for such post-holiday menus. Mounds of arugula topped with roasted butternut squash and fennel, all tossed in a vinaigrette, are garnished with shavings of Parmesan and a sprinkle of walnuts.

You could use this salad as a side to a turkey sandwich or chowder, as an accompaniment for creamed turkey over rice, or as a partner to a baked pasta and turkey dish. You might even offer it on its own with a loaf of good crusty peasant bread for those who want a respite after too much indulging.

I love the robust taste of arugula in this salad, but tender baby spinach could be substituted with equally good results. As a timesaver, I always buy peeled butternut squash at my local supermarket. Then I need only to cube the squash and slice the fennel before popping the vegetables into the oven for 30 minutes. Once roasted, the squash and fennel can be left at room temperature for several hours so they won’t take up refrigerator space.

The following recipe is for four but can easily be doubled or tripled. You can serve the salad individually for a small group or arrange it on a large platter to present buffet-style to a crowd.

Fall salad with roasted butternut squash and walnuts

12 ounces peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes (see note)

1 medium fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, tough core removed and halves cut into -inch wedges

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

teaspoon Dijon mustard

Pinch of cayenne pepper

8 cups arugula or baby spinach, stems removed and discarded

cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped (see note)

1 3- to 4-ounce chunk Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano), at room temperature

Line a large baking sheet with foil. Spread squash on half of baking sheet and fennel on other half. Drizzle vegetables with 2 tablespoons olive oil, then salt and pepper well.

Roast on center rack of preheated 375-degree oven, stirring every 10 minutes, until vegetables are slightly browned around the edges and tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 30 minutes. Remove squash and fennel and cool to room temperature. (Vegetables can be roasted 6 hours ahead. Cover loosely with foil and leave at room temperature.)

In a large serving bowl whisk remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil with vinegar, mustard, teaspoon salt and cayenne pepper. Remove 1/3of dressing and place in a medium bowl along with roasted vegetables and toss. Add arugula to large bowl and toss.

To serve, divide arugula evenly and mound on four salad plates. Then divide roasted vegetables evenly and scatter over each salad. Sprinkle each serving with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts. Using a cheese shaver or vegetable peeler, shave several slices of Parmesan cheese over each salad. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Most supermarkets sell packages of peeled and seeded butternut squash, and some sell it cut into cubes. Look for peeled squash in the produce section of the grocery. To toast walnuts, spread on a rimmed baking sheet and place on center shelf of preheated 350-degree oven until fragrant and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove and cool.


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