Here is a confession that will come as a surprise to nobody: I am a rule follower. Up until very recently, I earnestly followed recipes, measuring each spice and seasoning, setting timers, and not allowing myself to riff too much on what was written.
Not that much has changed. I’m still a rule follower… in so many ways. But somewhere in the time lapse of so many meals cooked and enough cookbooks consulted, I have internalized a larger set of rules that are helping me break away from the written recipe scripture.
Now I know I did not discover this equation — clearly this is a natural law with which people have been engineering for some time. Still, it felt like a revelation when I finally was able to spell it out myself:
grains + leaves + protein + seeds/nuts + vinaigrette = YUM.
The equation gets even yummier if you toss is something roasted, some fruit, and/or something cheesy. This is what I did. I put the “recipe” below, but really, you can do this without it. But all you rebels out there already knew that.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Farro Salad with Apples and Blue Cheese
Created by Megan Knottingham. Yes, she googled it afterward and was not the first to dream up some of these things in combination…nonetheless, this is her version.
- 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1/2 of a large red onion, or 1 whole small red onion, cut into large wedges (these will melt down dramatically, so you want to cut them big)
- 1 cup of farro
- baby spinach
- one large apple, cubed
- toasted pepitas or sunflower seeds
- blue cheese, crumbled
- balsamic vinegar
- olive oil
- kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 425°. Toss butternut squash cubes and red onion wedges with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, two big pinches of kosher salt, and some pepper on a large rimmed baking tray. Roast until the squash gets some crispy brown edges and the onions are melted and caramelized, about 60 -75 minutes. Stirring about every 20 minutes to ensure even browning. Let cool slightly or until room temperature. You can also roast your veggies ahead of time — the first time I made this, I roasted the squash the day before, and heated it up slightly in the microwave before combining it with the other ingredients.
Meanwhile, prepare the farro. Rinse the dry farro. Add it to a medium pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, until al dente. Drain, then put into your serving bowl.
Whisk approximately 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon mustard, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt together. Whisk in olive oil until it tastes to your liking (I filled my container up to the 2/3 cup mark).
Toss the roasted vegetables with the farro and apples. Add big handfuls of spinach and the vinaigrette. Top with pepitas and blue cheese if you feel like it. Pour a glass of something delicious. Dig in!