TasteFood

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and just like clockwork, I begin to second-guess the amount of food on my menu. Surely it won't be enough, I think. (I should know by now that there is always, magically, enough.) Nevertheless, my entertainer's preservation-instinct kicks in, and I worry that there won't be the requisite abundance of food befitting a Thanksgiving table lined with expectant guests. So, I devise a few last-minute recipes to extend the menu -- and this always includes a salad.

For all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, a bright and robust seasonal salad is often overlooked. Cooked vegetables, mashes, stuffings and dressings are the norm, but a heaping bowl of fresh seasonal greens should not be dismissed. Not only is salad a refreshing and palate-cleansing addition to any holiday table, but you can also add a vibrant array of colorful vegetables and leafy greens, speckled with glistening fruit, seeds and nuts, and -- voila! -- have a sumptuous side dish pretty enough to be a centerpiece.

Fall and winter tend to yield peppery and bitter greens, so add sweet and salty ingredients to your salad to round out the flavors. Roasted butternut squash is sweet and nutty, while crispy prosciutto shards add a lick of salt to each bite. Don't be bashful about tossing in handfuls of dried fruit, nuts or seeds either -- this salad is meant to be hearty, and the sturdy greens can handle it.

Radicchio, Butternut Squash and Arugula Salad With Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette

Active Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

4 ounces prosciutto

1 medium butternut squash, 1 1/2 to 2 pounds

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of ground cayenne

1 tablespoon olive oil

Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 large garlic clove, peeled, smashed but intact

1 teaspoon light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 ounces arugula

3 ounces spinach leaves

1 small radicchio, cored, thinly sliced

1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup dried cranberries

2 tablespoons pepitas

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the prosciutto on a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake in the oven until crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven. When cool to the touch, break into shards. Set aside.

Cut off the neck of the squash and reserve the base for another use. Peel the neck and slice into 1/2-inch-thick planks. Cut each plank in 1-inch squares and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Arrange the squash in one layer in the skillet and cook until tender, but not mushy, and golden brown on each side, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Prepare the vinaigrette: Bring the balsamic vinegar, garlic and brown sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat; simmer until the vinegar has been reduced by about half, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the vinegar cool to lukewarm, 10 to 15 minutes; discard the garlic. Season with the salt and pepper, and whisk in the oil until emulsified.

To serve, combine the arugula, spinach, radicchio, squash, walnuts, cranberries and pepitas in a large bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and toss to combine.

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