Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Battle of the Thanksgiving Salads: Acorn Squash versus Pear

(pictured: Roasted Acorn Squash Salad)

When I am testing recipes my husband is always in line to be a taste tester. The only problem with having him test is when I say “which one did you like better”. No matter what we are testing his response is “I don’t know I don’t remember the last one well enough to compare”. To avoid that problem I decided that tonight we are having both versions of the salad that may end up on our Thanksgiving table.

I decided to roast both the acorn squash and pears. Since each salad is served cold or room temperature the roasted items can be prepared a day or two in advance avoiding the last minute rush of at least one dish. Each salad with be finished with balsamic glaze and nuts and served over greens. The salads are very similar in preparation but the pear salad is much sweeter than the acorn squash. Visually I like the look of the squash half moons. However the hazelnuts on the pear salad are my favorite nut. Clearly I don’t have a clear favorite so that choice is up to the hubby. Here are the salad variations I made this evening.

Roasted Acorn Squash Salad with Almonds and Balsamic Glaze
Serves 2


1 acorn squash, organic
1 teaspoon amber agave
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups mesclun greens
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 tablespoon balsamic glaze


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (convection). Add 25 degrees to your oven temperature if not using a convection setting. Line a metal half sheet pan with silpat, parchment paper or easy release aluminum foil and set aside.

(pictured: striped squash ready to be sliced and roasted)

Scrub the acorn squash well as most of the skin will remain on the squash. Using a peeler remove the peel from the high point on the ridges of the squash creating a striped effect. This isn’t necessary but makes the squash easier to cut and eat, and it looks pretty. Cut the squash in half (top to bottom) and remove the seeds from the squash. Now cut the top and bottom off the squash and discard, as they are tough. Slice the squash into half moon shapes that are approximately ¾ inch thick.

Place the squash slices on the pan in a single layer. Season the squash with salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes in your preheated oven. After 20 minutes flip the squash over. Using a silicon basting brush place a drop of agave on the brush and brush the top of the squash. Continue this until each squash has a light coating of agave. Salt and pepper the squash and return to the oven for 10 minutes. The squash will be tender but should hold its shape. The light coating of agave will create a little brown on the top of the squash and will hold the salt and pepper on the squash.

Remove the squash from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature before composing the salad. You can also refrigerate the squash if making the day before.

Place the greens on the bottom of the plate. Top with the squash half moons. Drizzle the salad with the balsamic glaze and top with sliced almonds.

Nutritional Information:

Calories - 87.32
Calories From Fat (24%) - 20.56

Total Fat - 2.46g
Saturated Fat - 0.2g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 11.32mg
Potassium - 510.21mg
Total Carbohydrates - 15.51g
Fiber - 3.01g
Sugar - 2.05g
Protein - 2.44g

(pictured: Roasted Pear Salad)

Roasted Pear and Hazelnut Salad
Serves 2


2 Bosc pears
4 cups mesclun greens
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons hazelnuts


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, convection. If not using convection heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a metal half sheet as outlined above and set aside.

Cut the pears in half top to bottom. I leave the stem on the pears for visual appeal. Use a melon baller to remove the pear core. Take a paring knife and remove the hard bit from the bottom of the pear.

Place the pears cut side down on the half sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes. A paring knife should gently slide into the pear flesh indicated the pear is done.

Allow the pears to cool before plating the salad.

Start with the greens, add the pears, then the balsamic glaze and finish with the hazelnuts.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 160.3
Calories From Fat (24%) - 39.07

Total Fat - 4.67g
Saturated Fat - 0.33g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 16.99mg
Potassium - 418.11mg
Total Carbohydrates - 29.02g
Fiber - 6.55g
Sugar - 17.52
Protein - 2.84g

I included this recipe in case you can’t find balsamic glaze at your local grocery store. It is very easy to make. I always make my own. It is ready in about 15 minutes but the exact time will depend on your stove. Here is how you make balsamic glaze.

Balsamic Glaze
Makes 4 tablespoons


½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar


Place the balsamic in a heavy bottomed pot. I used my smallest All-Clad saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and when the balsamic begins to simmer turn the heat down to the lowest level. Whisk the balsamic every few minutes until it is reduced by half the original amount.

When the balsamic cools if it is too thick you can correct it. Return the balsamic to the heat and add more balsamic vinegar to thin the glaze. You are heating it to melt the original balsamic so it can combine with addition. Once they are whisked together turn off the heat.

The balsamic glaze can be stored in a covered container at room temperature until needed. I drizzle it over salads, risotto, seitan, tofu, and veggies. It is good in any dish where you would like a little sweet and sour.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 28.05
Calories From Fat (0%) - 0

Total Fat - 0g
Saturated Fat - 0g
Sodium - 7.33mg
Potassium - 35.7mg
Total Carbohydrates - 5.43g
Sugar - 4.77g
Protein - 0.16g


Based on the nutritional information I would choose the acorn squash salad over the pear. Thanksgiving is always such a calorie dense meal I like to have dishes that are light so I don’t get that bloated feeling after the meal. Additionally I like that the acorn salad is not something that you see everywhere. Roasted pears are nice but they have been popular since the 80’s.

The hubby has decided that he prefers the roasted squash salad for Thanksgiving dinner. He feels, and I agree, that the roasted pear salad is a little sweet and would make a better after dinner salad


  1. They both sound fabulous...I say have have both :-)


  2. The pear salad looks absolutely gorgeous, but the acorn squash salad sounds really innovative. I think I'd have a difficult time deciding between the two.

  3. Courtney,

    Both salads were good, but had such a different taste. I think the hubby was correct that the pear version would make a great after dinner salad.


    Thanks! :) I couldn't decide ... which is why I pawned the decision off on the hubby. We liked both salads, so I will be making them both again while squash and pears are in season.


  4. Wow, I don't think I could decide either, which would mean making both! And I think I may, since I have the ingredients for both in the house right now and no idea what to make for dinner!

  5. Janet,

    Thanks! If you make the salads and have any suggestions I would love to hear them.


  6. oh i found the name to that monster squash i ws telling you about, "hubbard" everytime i go to the grocery store i go and just look at it...its that er.... "interesting" looking..... i still have an ocd aversion to cooked fuit so you know my choice...lol

  7. Michelle,

    I haven't cooked a hubbard squash before. I will try to pick one up at the farmers market this weekend and let you know what flavors work well with it.


  8. I think they both look fantastic and sound delicious in different way. I would love to try them both, YUM! I'm not sure if I can make as nice as you did:)

  9. Oraphan,

    Thanks! We did like them both, but one was much sweeter.

    They were both actually pretty easy. I think yours will turn out just as well as mine.

    If you don't want to make your own balsamic glaze I have seen it for sale at Whole Foods and Wegman's with the other "fancy" vinegars.



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