TND – The Third Thing

January 5, 2011

The third thing was totally snow. Not, I’ll point out, snow in Boston (because when Boston got 20” of snow, Logan airport was open again the next day). No, it was snow in London which was much much worse. Through an unfortunate confluence of bad luck (lots of snow in a short period of time), poor planning (not enough de-icer fluid) and incompetence (‘we were prepared for the snow on the runways, but were surprised at how it piled up around the planes’ – which, what? Did you think that snow was selective about where it fell?) Heathrow shut down for something like 5 days just before Christmas. This resulted in an unsurprising, if tedious, amount of chaos.

I did make it to Malta, before Christmas even, via Orlando and Gatwick, which mysteriously did not get the vast quantities of snow that Heathrow did despite being just on the other side of London. On the upside, I cannot say enough good things about Virgin Atlantic who were unfailingly polite, helpful, generous and worked miracles to get people to where they were trying to be by Christmas. As a corollary, I have very few nice things to say about Heathrow, but that’s more or less par for the course. I somehow always forget how much I hate Heathrow until I’m landing there at which point it’s too late to do anything except mutter irritably while you try and change terminals in under 60 minutes.

Malta, once I finally got there, was lovely and warm and I stuffed myself with good food, and better wine and reveled in not having to think up menu plans, and generally enjoyed being spoiled by my parents. Because Malta is one of these delightful places where it’s next to impossible to take a bad picture – bright blue skies, warm sunshine and honey colored stone will do that for a locale – I have more pictures from this year’s Christmas.

We made it over to Gozo this year. Gozo is the sleepier country cousin of Malta, and is therefore (predictably) a hot bed of seething resentment for the more worldly and metropolitan Malta. On the other hand, recent evidence suggests that Gozo might be where Christianity survived during the Muslim occupation of Malta, and that Malta might even have been rechristianized by Gozitans (gasp!). This, as you might expect, is a topic of some heated dispute, mostly carried out in the Letters to the Editor page of the Times of Malta where all matters of import are debated, dissected and generally groused about.

I reluctantly returned to Boston to find it charmingly draped in snow, which was made even more charming by the fact that my driveway was cleared and my car unearthed and the weather flirting with the upper 40s for the days surrounding New Years. We engaged in our traditional game of New Years Eve Trivial Pursuit and gorged ourselves on breakfast for dinner (in honor of the Lord of the Rings trilogy which we rewatched over the course of two days).

Now it’s the New Year, and we’re all trying to recover from our all cookie Christmas diet. To reboot our systems and reacquaint ourselves with the concept of green vegetables I made a winter version of a grilled chicken salad involving roasted butternut squash, apples and hinting at maple and cider.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Maple Grilled Chicken & Apple Cider Dressing

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
(serves 4-6)
This is a somewhat (very) loose adaptation of an Ina Garten recipe from the Food Network. Her recipe sounds tasty, but I wanted to make it into a main course rather than a side dish, so I nixed the parmesan, added a protein and then added some sliced apple for textural interest. Explaining this recipe possibly takes longer than it does to make it or eat it.

Apple Cider Dressing
¾ cup cider
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp minced shallots
½ cup olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard

Combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6-10 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about ¼ cup. Allow to cool slightly. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard and olive oil to form an emulsion. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

* In the original recipe she makes this as a warm vinaigrette. I made mine the night before and used it cold. It’ll wilt the salad a little bit if you use it warm which is nice, but it’s actually just a really nice dressing hot or cold. If you’re serving it cold you might need to add a little more acid to the dressing to balance out the sweet from the reduced cider.

Roasted Butternut Squash
1.5 lb butternut squash, peeled and chopped*
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp maple syrup
3 Tbsp dried cranberries (or cherries or raisins, something small, sweet and dried)
Salt/pepper & cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400.

Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan and toss with olive oil, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, turning once. Add the cranberries for the last 5 minutes of roasting.

* Ina Garten says a ¾” dice. I do mine in long wedges about ¼” thick because I think it looks nice arranged on the plate and I’m not trying to toss them in the salad.

Maple Grilled Chicken
I don’t have amounts for this marinade because I just pour what looks like a sufficient amount into a zip lock bag and squish it all around until everything is nicely coated and let it sit for 15-20 minutes while I get on with the rest of dinner. I’ve put my best guesstimate at what I use in parentheses, but it’s just a guess. I realize this is annoying. Sorry.

3-4 chicken breasts, butterflied and lightly pounded
(2-3 Tbsp) Olive oil
(1 Tbsp) Maple syrup
(1-2 tsp) Vinegar (use something mild – white wine or champagne)
(1/8 tsp) Garlic powder

Marinate the chicken breasts in the olive oil, maple syrup and seasonings for 15-20 minutes. Grill until cooked through.

Salad Assembly
Greens (I like arugula, but it would also be good with baby spinach)
Apple (or pear)
Pumpkin seeds (or pecans)
Grilled Chicken
Roasted Butternut Squash
Goat cheese (optional)

Toss your salad green of choice with enough dressing to dress it lightly. Arrange on plates.

Slice ½ apple or ripe pear per salad plate and arrange decoratively. Drizzle with a little bit more dressing (really more for decorative effect than anything else). Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds or nuts. Arrange roasted butternut squash on top of apples. Add sliced grilled chicken. Add a little crumbled goat cheese (if using).

Serve with bread.



  1. You sound like an Epicurious reviewer 🙂

    • I did have this thought.

  2. […] Recipe previously given:  The Third Thing […]

  3. […] Apple Cider Vinaigrette Recipe previously given:  The Third Thing […]

  4. […] Vinaigrette recipe previously given:  The Third Thing […]

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