Butternut Squash Salad with Farro and Pepitas

Here we go again…

Butternut squash soup last week… butternut squash salad this week.  As we enter new seasons, I see that I might possibly get a bit obsessed with seasonal ingredients from time to time.  Corn, figs, and now butternut squash.  Oh well, there are worse things, I suppose.  This was the recipe that I was dreaming about as summer ended and the beginnings of fall were in the air, but have only, just now, gotten a chance to share with you.

I fell in love with this recipe from Smitten Kitchen last October and it’s memory stayed with me all year long.  It is hearty and fresh and perfectly fall.  It also makes me laugh every time I make it because we have a joke among a few of our friends about farro.  Each and every time it is spotted on a menu, all anyone ever has to say about it is, “oh, farro, that’s an ancient grain.”  What does that even mean anyways?  As it turns out, farro is a whole grain that hails from Italy, has a nutty flavor and a nice amount of tooth to it.  It is quite delicious.  If you are curious to know more about farro, click here, or simply try the recipe below.

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Butternut Squash Salad with Farro and Pepitas

Source: Smitten Kitchen

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
5 to 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup semi-pearled farro 
1/3 cup toasted pepitas 
3 ounces ricotta salata or another salty cheese, crumbled or coarsely grated (I use french feta)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Peel squash, then halve lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Cut squash into approximately 3/4-inch chunks. Coat one large or two small baking sheets with 2 tablespoons oil total. Spread squash out in single layer on sheet. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast until pieces are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Set aside to cool slightly.

While squash is roasting, cook farro in a large pot of simmering salted water until the grains are tender but chewy, about 30 minutes. (Since there are so many varieties of farro, however, if your package suggests otherwise, it’s best to defer to its cooking suggestion.) Drain and cool slightly.

While squash is roasting and farro is simmering, in a small bowl, whisk together sherry vinegar, water, 1/2 teaspoon table salt and granulated sugar until sugar and salt dissolve. Stir in onion; it will barely be covered by vinegar mixture but don’t worry. Cover and set in fridge until needed; 30 minutes is ideal but less time will still make a lovely, lightly pickled onion.

In a large bowl, mix together butternut squash, farro, red onion and its vinegar brine, the crumbled cheese and pepitas. Toss with 3 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil, use the 4th one only if needed. Taste and adjust seasonings. Eat now or later. Salad keeps in the fridge for up to a week.

I enjoy serving this salad over a bed of baby spinach.  I always know when I have found a fantastic new recipe – my particular “tell” is that I find myself sampling multiple spoonfuls out of the serving bowl, just to make sure I’ve gotten it just right… you may find yourself doing the same on this one!  In fact, it was eaten so quickly, I never got a great photo of it plated and beautiful… sorry about that, you’ll just have to take my word for it – Delicious!