Let me count the ways. Healthy, indulgent, salty, sweet, smoky, hearty, fun, colorful, beautiful, and just plain old lip-smackin’ delicious!
I have a feeling that, somewhere between all the sugary Halloween treats and the decadent holiday fare ahead, you’re going to need something fresh, fun, and healthy to help sustain and center you. This fabulous salad will do the trick and more. Besides being super-nutritious, most of it can be prepared ahead, even a day or two in advance. Put it together at the last minute and wow your family, friends, and guests with a gorgeous presentation.
If you haven’t cooked with barley before, you’re in for a special treat. It’s an ancient grain that has a pasta-like consistency and is just loaded with fiber, protein, and antioxidants. It helps with blood glucose stabilization, cardiovascular protection, and cancer prevention, and has actually been touted as “one of the world’s healthiest foods.” Pearl barley is the most readily available type, and the one used most often for culinary purposes. The hull and bran have been removed, making it much easier to cook.
* If you’re intimidated by pomegranates or unsure about the best technique for removing the seeds, check out this post – How to De-seed a Pomegranate, no fuss, no mess, no water!
Roasted Butternut Salad with Barley and Candied Bacon
- For the salad:
- 10 strips bacon
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced into ½” cubes
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ cups walnuts, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups pearl barley, cooked according to package directions
- 4 cups fresh baby spinach, sliced thinly into ribbons
- 2 cups crumbled Feta cheese
- 1 medium pomegranate, seeded
- For maple Dijon vinaigrette:
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup canola oil
- generous pinch sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line 3 sheet pans with foil.
- For candied bacon, place bacon strips on one of the prepared sheet pans. Sprinkle evenly with half of the brown sugar. Place in oven for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and flip bacon strips to opposite side. Sprinkle with the remaining half of the brown sugar. Return to oven and bake for another 8-12 minutes, or until deep golden brown (amount of time will depend on your oven and the thickness of the bacon). Watch bacon carefully during the last 5 minutes as it can easily go from golden to burned. Remove bacon to a sheet of foil or parchment paper and allow to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, slice bacon, width-wise, into ¼” slices. Set aside.
- Place diced butternut squash on the second sheet pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in oven for about 15 minutes or until tender, but not mushy. Gently stir halfway through baking time. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Place walnuts on 3rd sheet pan. Drizzle with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Toss well and place in oven for about 8 minutes or until beginning to turn golden. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
- Arrange candied bacon, barley, Feta, spinach, butternut squash, pomegranate arils (seeds) and walnuts in attractive rows on salad plates or shallow bowls. Drizzle with dressing or allow guests to dress their own salads. You can also toss all salad ingredients in a large bowl and divide between 4 individual plates or allow guests to serve their own salads.
- For the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in a medium size jar. Cover with lid and shake vigorously.
The candied bacon, roasted butternut squash, walnuts, and dressing can all be made up to a day in advance. Refrigerate separately except for walnuts which can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Warm the bacon and squash on low power in the microwave. These ingredients should be warm or at room temperature, not hot.