A few months ago, we were in Vancouver for our honeymoon. Whenever we tell people that we spent our honeymoon in Vancouver, it goes one of two ways: If they’ve never been, they automatically ask “Why Vancouver?” and for those that have been, it’s usually a smile and a sigh. They get it. There’s a reason I had to tell you a bit of backstory… I planned for MONTHS for this trip. Every single detail, including activities and eating. Ok, it was mostly eating… One of the “must do” activities was biking the perimeter of Stanley Park. The weather did not cooperate with us and it rained almost every single day of our trip.
The day before we left, it finally stopped raining, so we packed up and headed to the park. I had the perfect place picked out for lunch and was so excited to check it out. You know that old saying about the best laid plans? Yeah, well… After riding around for a bit, not seeing the restaurant I was looking for and getting hungrier (and crankier) by the minute, my other half spotted something and said “Can we just eat here?”
I must admit, I have never been so happily surprised by having my plans derailed. We sauntered in to this nondescript restaurant and the minute we sat down, I knew they were going to deliver. The menu was seasonal and local, the beers were brewed on site and our server was personable and very funny.
The appetizer we ordered was a version of this salad served with crostini. It has become one of my go-to salads in the fall and winter. It is hearty and filling, yet not heavy. If I’m feeling the need to make it even more substantial (read: I’m starving!), I’ll cook some grains and toss them in. As always, I say use whatever you have on hand but my favorites for this salad are: freekeh, farro, or barley. I like something a little chewy here. I’ve used quinoa and more delicate grains like amaranth, but they tend to get a bit lost in the mix. I make this for my clients all the time and it consistently gets rave reviews. The combination of the vegetables and beans with a little sweet and a little crunch makes this a delicious salad any day of the week, but especially if you try to do a meatless meal once in awhile. Aside from peeling and roasting the butternut, the only “labor” involved here is whisking up a few ingredients for a dressing.
Arugula, Butternut & White Bean Salad:
- 12 oz baby arugula
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, cleaned and cubed
- 1 cup canned white (cannellini) beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
- 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar ( I use an aged vinegar for this)
- 1 -1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Toss butternut with a few tablespoons of canola or olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread out on a sheet pan and roast on the middle rack for 20 - 30 minutes, checking after 20 minutes. I like mine a bit caramelized, so I leave them in a little longer. Everyone's oven is different, yours may take less time or a smidge longer.
- While the butternut is roasting, make the dressing: Whisk all ingredients (except oil) together and then drizzle oil in slowly, in a steady stream while whisking quickly. If it doesn't emulsify, it's ok, just give it a good whisk again before you drizzle it over your salad.
- Drop the cranberries into a bowl with a bit of hot water for 10 minutes so they can plump up, then drain and set aside.
- Toss the pecans onto a small sheet pan and slide them into the oven for 5 minutes just so they warm through a bit, then let them cool slightly before giving them a rough chop.
- When squash is cooked to your liking, remove from oven and let it cool slightly before adding to the salad.
- Pile the greens on a platter (or on plates) and top with the butternut, beans, cranberries and pecans.
- Drizzle dressing over the top and dig in.
- This recipe will serve 4 people... Or 2 very hungry people.
- I used a mixture of baby arugula, baby spinach, baby kale and baby chard for this photo. If you prefer certain greens, use what you like best... Different greens have different textures and tastes, feel free to experiment and change it up.
- A bit of fresh goat cheese crumbled on top of this salad is divine, give it a try!