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An easy vegetarian butternut squash salad you can make on one sheet pan, this spicy, vegetarian main dish salad is seasoned with harissa chili paste, feta cheese and pomegranate.
Tell me – is there a butternut squash that’s been quietly sitting in a corner of your kitchen, lonely and uncooked? I feel you.
I can’t count how many times I’ll buy an attractive assortment of winter squash, then come home and put them on the counter in a basket or something. Boom! Fall decorating is complete.
This dish is pretty hands-off to make, with the squash and seasonings roasting on one sheet pan — it’s a simple and creative way to enjoy this sweet winter squash.
Roasting butternut squash
Here I will humbly submit that one of the best ways to cook butternut squash is to roast it.
When it’s done — all golden and tender —mix the sweet roasted butternut squash with some salad greens, feta cheese, pomegranate seeds and pistachios to complete the dish.
The slightly sweet, earthy nature of butternut squash practically begs to be paired with bold, spicy flavors, which is exactly what harissa paste has to offer.
Harissa is a tasty North African chili paste, made with not-too-hot dried chilies, garlic, spices and olive oil. It has a mellow heat and deep, complex flavor.
You can use harissa to spice up just about anything — it’s delicious on vegetables, especially. One of our favorites here on the blog is this Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa Chickpeas.
Harissa works wonders when combined with everyday basic condiments like mayo or hummus to add an immediate zippy punch to a sandwich spread or dip.
Tips for roasting butternut squash
To make the process of roasting butternut squash just about foolproof, follow these basic steps:
- Preheat your oven for at least 20 minutes before roasting. This ensures the squash will cook faster and evenly.
- Use a shallow baking sheet with a rim. A deeper pan, like a roasting pan, won’t allow enough air circulation to allow surface browning and caramelization (which is the secret to great-tasting roasted anything.)
- Line the pan with piece of parchment paper for easy clean up. I like these natural pre-cut parchment sheets.
Peeling a butternut squash
The biggest question is do you really need to peel butternut squash? Well, the answer is no, not really. The skin is totally edible, but depending on the age and size of the squash, the skin can sometimes be tough.
To keep prepping easy, I recommend a compromise — peel the squash in not-too-perfect swipes with a regular swivel peeler, leaving some random pieces of skin on the squash.
How to cut a butternut squash:
- Lay the squash on your work surface and run the peeler along the edge of it, removing the skin in strips.
- Trim off the very top of the squash (with the stem) and about a 1/4-inch slice off the bottom, using a large sharp knife.
- Slice the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out most of the seeds with a spoon or use your finger to pull them out. Don’t worry about getting every last seed out. They actually add a bit of crunch to the salad when they’re roasted.
Serving idea: The salad makes a perfectly satisfying vegetarian salad to serve as a main dish. You can toss in some warm cooked grain like brown rice, quinoa or farro to round it out.
Roasted Harissa Butternut Squash Salad with Feta
- 1 (900 g) butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, halved and seeded
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) harissa paste
- Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 2 cups mixed salad greens
- ⅓ cup (50 g) crumbled feta cheese, or soft goat cheese
- ¼ cup (41 g) pomegranate seeds *
- ¼ cup (30 g) chopped shelled pistachios
- Preheat oven to 375 (190C) degrees with the rack positioned in the center.
- Slice the squash into 1 ½-inch chunks and place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Toss the squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the harissa and 1 teaspoon salt. Roast the squash until it's golden brown and tender, 40-45 minutes, stirring everything around at about the 20-minute mark.
- Transfer the squash to large serving bowl and mix in the red wine vinegar, remaining tablespoon olive oil and the greens (they will wilt slightly). Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, vinegar or oil if you like.
- Sprinkle the salad with the feta cheese, pomegranate seeds and pistachios. Enjoy!
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- To remove the seeds (arils) from a pomegranate, first slice it half. Break each half into quarters. Holding each piece over a bowl, use your fingers to release the seeds from each section.
- If you don’t have pomegranate arils, sprinkle the salad with dried cranberries, currants or cherries.