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Warm Squash Salad with Teleme and Pepitas

The extra step of both steaming and roasting the squash brings a caramelized taste to this autumnal salad. The oven-hot squash warms the spinach and melts the edges of the tart, semisoft Teleme, blending the flavors. Change out the flavor by using buffalo mozzarella, fontina or a creamy Monterey jack in place of the Teleme; if desired, substitute walnuts or hazelnuts for the pepitas.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash, about 1 1/2 lb.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling, plus 2 Tbs.
  • Sea salt, to taste, plus 1/2 tsp.
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste, plus 1/4 tsp.
  • 2 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sherry vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. walnut oil or hazelnut oil
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1/4 lb. Teleme cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

Directions:

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the squash. Cut it in half lengthwise, then scoop out and discard the seeds and fibers. Cut the squash into small slices or 1/2-inch cubes. In a steamer pan, bring water to a boil over high heat. Arrange the squash pieces on the steamer rack, place over the boiling water, cover and steam until just slightly tender when pierced with a fork, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the squash from the steamer and let cool.

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the squash pieces on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and turn to coat. Roast, turning the squash pieces over once, until lightly golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

In a large salad bowl, using a fork, mix together the balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, the 2 Tbs. olive oil, the walnut oil, the 1/2 tsp. salt and the 1/4 tsp. pepper. Add the spinach and toss to coat well.

Divide the spinach equally among 4 to 6 salad plates. Top with the warm squash pieces, the cheese and a sprinkling of pepitas. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cheese, by Georgeanne Brennan (Weldon Owen, 2010).