Roasted squash and butter toasted pecans are the shining stars of this harvest salad. Fresh, crisp apples and honey goat cheese are a close second. But the absolute secret to this salad is the fond in the vinaigrette dressing.
Start by roasting the vegetables first so you can make the rest of the salad while the squash roasts in the oven. Cut the squash into cubes (half-inch or 1.5 cm) and cut onion into 8-10 wedges. Place in a bowl and toss together with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread evenly onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven at 425F/218C for approximately 30 minutes, flipping them halfway through baking. If you skip this step, one side of the squash will burn. When done, they should be still be slightly firm with brown edges. Do not overbake or the squash will turn to mush. Remove from oven and let cool to room temp.
In a small sauté pan, melt together the olive oil and butter. Add a smashed garlic clove and a sprig of herbs: rosemary or sage. Add pecans and toast over medium heat until the pecans turn golden brown, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and toss with cinnamon and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Using a mesh sieve, separate the toasted pecans from the pan drippings. Add pan drippings to the vinaigrette. Pick out the garlic and herb stem from the bowl of pecans. Finely mince or chop the garlic and add to the vinaigrette. Discard the stem of the rosemary or sage.
Add vinegar, honey or maple, dijon mustard, shallot, and pan drippings plus garlic from the pecans to the bowl of a food processor. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Do not exceed ¼ teaspoon of each.
Add greens to the bowl. Toss the mixed greens with half the vinaigrette dressing. If prepping individual salads, feel free to leave the dressing on the side.
Arrange squash, onion, apples, cheese and nuts evenly over the salad. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the salad then serve. This salad tastes best served at room temperature.
Vinaigrette yields approximately 5oz of dressing.
To make this salad ahead of time, leave the vinaigrette on the side. Store the vinaigrette in the fridge until ready to use. Because there is a little bit of butter in the vinaigrette, let it sit at room temp for 30 minutes or warm it 10 seconds in the microwave before tossing into the salad.