Out of the four very distinct seasons we get here in Toronto, fall is usually my favourite.
I love the snuggly sweaters, bright tights, velvety corduroys and patterned scarves that reappear in my wardrobe after being out of sight all summer long, ready to fight off the chilly breezes and foggy mornings. I love the bright coloured trees and the crisp leaves that rustle underfoot. Most of all, I love fall food, with its comforting stews and soups and chilis, slow braises and oven roasts, and all the other long-cooked dishes that feel so out of place in summer’s long, warm days but feel just right now that the sun sets by dinnertime.
This year, though, fall totally kicked my ass. It’s not unusual to find myself feeling little bit blue when the seasons start to turn, especially when the clocks change and I find myself commuting to work in the dark, this year was certainly the worst in a long, long time.
Mostly, it was the weather. The better part of October was a grey drizzly mess, turning me into a sad soggy mess right along with it. I may have thrown a temper tantrum or two, particularly on the days it got too wet to ride my bike to work.
There were a few bright spots, though. We spent four glorious days in Chicago and fell in love with the city’s beautiful architecture and delicious food. We sorted out the most important details for our wedding, namely the when and the where. I worked behind the scenes on some really fun blog-related projects (a few of which I’ll be revealing next week).
…And I discovered this salad at the Holt Renfrew Cafe, which I promptly decided to recreate at home for myself.
Sweet roasted squash and earthy lentils are a perfect pair, especially once salty feta and a tangy apple-cider vinaigrette join the party. All you need is a bed of baby greens and a big hunk of crusty bread, and you’ve got yourself the perfect rainy-day lunch for the office… or pair all of the above with a big glass of crisp white wine for a perfect weeknight dinner at home after a crappy day at work (or a really, really awesome rainy-day lunch for the office, if your workplace doesn’t have issues with drinking on the job. :) )
I won’t pretend it can make a bad day disappear entirely, but it certainly helps to make it a little more bearable.
And hey, maybe the sun’ll come up tomorrow… right?
- ¾ cup French Puy lentils
- 6 cups butternut or acorn squash, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp paprika
- Salt and pepper
- 4 cups baby greens
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp grainy Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper
- Cook lentils in boiling salted water until tender but firm, about 30 minutes. Drain, rinse under running cold water to stop the cooking process, and set aside.
- While the lentils are cooking, preheat oven to 375°F.
- In a large bowl, toss squash with oil, paprika, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Arrange in single layer on a large baking sheet, and roast in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until tender and lightly caramelized, flipping over the squash cubes about halfway through. roast 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, maple syrup, cider vinegar and mustard until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss the roasted butternut squash and cooked lentils with dressing until evenly coated.
- Arrange the greens on four small salad plates, or on a single large serving platter. Spoon the dressed butternut and lentils overtop, then sprinkle with crumbled feta. Serve immediately.