Some of the best kitchen moments start with, “What if?”

What if we dump a whole bottle of red food coloring into chocolate cake batter? (Red velvet!)

What if we leave the whipping cream out overnight? (Creme fraiche!)

What if we bury the roast in a whole box of salt? (Salt-roasted beef!)

And this, from last night:

What if we make a salad from red beets and butternut squash?

It seemed tricky at first. Beets roast more slowly than squash. They leach their brilliant color onto everything they touch. They taste entirely different from other root vegetables, making this pairing potentially off-putting.

Thankfully, curiosity superseded those doubts. We dined on a salad of tender lettuces, beets and squash, topped with a sprinkling of dill and blue cheese. Separate roasting meant the beets kept their color to themselves. Thin slicing meant the veggies cooked at the same rate (and turned the beets into candy-like disks — another happy surprise).

The dish was a lovely accompaniment to our chicken, but it was hearty enough to carry dinner by itself.

Roast beet and squash salad:

What if we eat it all fall?

beet-and-squash-salad

Roast Beet & Squash Salad

  • 4 small red beets, scrubbed free of dirt and trimmed
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (about)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small head of tender green lettuce (like frisee), roughly torn
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
  • Blue cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Line two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil. Coat with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Using the slicing disk on your food processor (or a very sharp knife), slice the beets into rounds that are just an eighth of an inch thick.

Place the beets on one of your baking sheets. Toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.

Place the butternut squash cubes on your second baking sheet. Toss with another couple tablespoons of oil, then salt and pepper.

Place both sheets in the oven. Roast for 15 minutes, then stir the vegetables well. Be sure to use two different spoons when stirring so that no red transfers to the squash.

Roast an additional 10 minutes, then remove the vegetables from the oven.

In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the sherry wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the lettuce and dill to the dressing and toss gently.

Place the lettuce and dill on a large platter. Spoon the beets over the top. Place the squash on top of the beets. Crumble the blue cheese on top of everything, using as much (or as little) as you desire.

Serve immediately, while the vegetables are still warm.

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