Being in Texas for a few weeks, I understand that there are many places around the country and around the world that experience a few warm fall days, even late in the year. Chicago is definitely not one of them and I am attempting to adjust back to temperatures below 60 degrees. This is not a complaint because I thrive for cold weather but when you go from 80 to 35, it's a bit of a shock even for me. When I was brainstorming a lighter fall recipe, this warm salad got thrown together. It was a happy accident and I’m glad it happened because it is quite tasty. I also love the colors of this salad because they scream fall with the beets and squash. It's also a great fall meal when you want something on the comforting side but the weather is a bit warm for a heavier dinner.
For starters, choose your grain. I intended to use fregola in this recipe but ended up using farro instead. Fregola is a pasta that is almost the shape and size of pearl couscous. Farro is much more dense and is like rice but thicker and a little more tough to the bite. Both are fantastic options for this dish but the farro will add an extra heartiness the fregola wouldn’t. This recipe is also a very simple one. The grain cooks according to package directions and the vegetables roast. All you need to do is whip the balsamic and olive oil and toss the salad together. Easy, right?!
The beets turn the farro a gorgeous shade of purple which gives this dish an even deeper color. Once the vegetables finish roasting, toss them together with the farro and the balsamic-oil and the spinach. The spinach will wilt enough from the heat of the roasted vegetables. Once everything is well-incorporated and the spinach has wilted, toss in the cheese crumbles. They won’t melt entirely but they will get soft enough to have their flavor infiltrate the entire dish and every single bite. It’s quite the dinner, easy to prepare and great for leftovers the next few days.
Warm Fall Salad with Grapes and Feta
1 cup Red or Purple Grapes, halved
1 cup Butternut Squash, cubed
2 medium Beets or 1 large, cubed
½ cup Olive Oil + 2 tbsp.
1 cup Fregola or Farro
¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup cooked Chicken, diced
2 cups Spinach, packed
½ cup Feta Cheese Crumbles
Salt & Pepper
1 - Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix together the grapes, squash, beets, 2 tbsp of the olive oil, salt and pepper (to taste). Roast 25-30 minutes until the veggies are fork tender.
2 - Cook the fregola or farro according to package directions. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil in a large bowl to keep it from sticking. In a small bowl, whisk the balsamic vinegar and oil until emulsified.
3 - Pour the roasted vegetables and the grapes into the bowl with the fregola or farro. Add the spinach and chicken and toss until everything is well incorporated. Drizzle in the balsamic and olive oil mixture and toss until everything is well coated. Gently mix in the feta crumbles and serve.