Butternut Squash and Watercress Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette — The Weekender

By: Marisa McClellan
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When I was growing up, Passover wasn't a holiday we celebrated with any regularity. My mom was Jewish, but she had grown up in a very secular branch of the family. Occasionally we would attend a Seder at our Unitarian church (they were very into the world religions back in the 1980s), but it was not an annual thing.

Once I moved to Philadelphia, however, I found myself surrounded by family that, while still pretty New Age and multicultural, was far more observant when it came to the Jewish holidays.

And so Passover has become a staple holiday on my yearly calendar, second only to Thanksgiving in terms of eating. The meal is coordinated by my mom's first cousin Amy, and she distributes dish assignments at least a month prior to the meal (so that people can practice and get things just right).

Most years I'm the official brisket preparer for our meal. But I'm leaving for my book tour the morning after our dinner, so I asked for a less labor-intensive assignment this time and was asked to bring the salad.

After a bit of recipe reviewing, I found myself attracted to Marcela Valladolid's recipe for Butternut Squash and Watercress Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette. Its colorful combination of roasted butternut squash, crisp watercress and tart pomegranate seeds is eye-catching, and it is also perfectly kosher for Passover.

Whether you're having a Seder or not, you should make this salad for your   Weekender immediately; it bridges the gap between winter and spring like a dream.

Before you start cooking, read these tips:

— One of the things I love about this salad is that it can be prepped in stages and assembled at the very last minute. Roast off the squash, prep the pomegranates, make the vinaigrette and wash your greens well in advance of your meal.

— This is also an adaptable creation. Can't get watercress? Use peppery arugula or baby kale instead. Pomegranates too pricy? Dried cranberries or currants will serve perfectly.

— There's no reason why this salad can't be a template for any number of future side dishes. I love the combination of warm roasted veggie with sturdy salad greens. Start exploring the possibilities.

Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her second cookbook, Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces, is now available.

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