The Perfect Fall Salad

The Perfect Fall Salad

spinach salad with maple-roasted butternut squash, bacon, and pecans


I couldn’t wait to share this with you—the dishes aren’t even washed yet. (Anyway, that’s Stephen’s job.)

You know how when the air turns crisp but the sky is still bright and sunny, it feels like only good things can happen? This salad is like that. While you’re eating it, only good thoughts are possible. The conversation flows pleasantly, your husband smiles as he spears a crouton softened by maple-balsamic vinaigrette, and you don’t even care that your son won’t touch anything but the bacon.

Yeah, it’s that perfect. You don’t even care that your son won’t touch anything but the bacon.

Spinach Salad with Maple-Roasted Butternut, Bacon, and Pecans
Serves 4

If you like, add some shaved Parmesan or small chunks of sharp Cheddar.

2 cups diced butternut squash (about 1/2”)
2 medium shallots, cut into thick slices
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
salt & pepper
3 one-inch thick slices stale bread, cubed
2 tablespoons pecan halves
4 strips bacon (I used turkey)
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
One 5-ounce package baby spinach

Preheat oven to 400°F with racks positioned in the upper and lower thirds. Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil and coat one with cooking spray.

  1. Put the diced butternut and the shallots onto the coated baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss lightly, and roast on the bottom rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir gently, and roast for another 10-15 minutes on the top rack, until tender but not yet browned.
  2. Put the bread cubes on the second baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Toss, clear a space on one side of the baking sheet, and add the pecans. Put the tray on the bottom rack in the oven—leave the butternut squash on the top rack. Bake for 5 minutes, until the croutons are lightly browned, the pecans are aromatic, and the butternut squash is golden brown. Allow all to cool slightly.
  3. Cook the bacon until crisp—if you’re using real bacon, drain on paper towels. Crumble when cool enough to handle.
  4. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the remaining 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, the balsamic vinegar, and a bit more salt & pepper into a small airtight container and shake to combine.
  5. Put the spinach into a large serving bowl or platter. Top with the squash, shallots, pecan, croutons, and bacon, and drizzle with the dressing.

MAKE BABY FOOD: The squash, oh yeah—make extra and mash with a fork or puree. A crouton, for babies on finger food to gnaw on. The rest, not so much.