I’m ready.

Ready for sweaters, ready for boots, ready to see my daughter’s eyebrows curl up in concentration and then arch above her bright eyes as she realizes sweet, crisp apples and crunchy piles of freshly fallen leaves for the first time in her young life.

Ready to cook! That’s exactly how I felt when I spied the wooden crates full of local butternut, buttercup and acorn squashes at my favorite farm stand. Naturally, if there were a time of year to kick my butt back in the kitchen, it must be fall.

I picked out a little gem of a buttercup and eagerly brought it to check out. The teenage girl working gave me a “hmm, that looks cool, what do you do with it?” I replied that you could simply cut it open, scoop out the seeds, and roast it. And threw in that it’s my favorite winter squash because it’s kind of like buttercup but with a creamier flesh like a sweet potato. True story. Honestly, I’d be a happy girl with that preparation every day from now and until Spring tulips start sprouting. That’s how good this squash is. But I was already salivating over something else, involving cauliflower, and some leftover arugula, and a rose-y pomegranate I couldn’t resist.

Fall is full of so many good things, including this salad, an unexpected and perhaps unintuitive blend of warm and toasty winter vegetables with bright, pepper-y arugula. But like layering your favorite summer tank under that new denim chambray shirt or leaving your legs bare under boots and light sweater dress, it’s kind of perfect for this time of year.

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Roasted Cauliflower and Winter Squash Salad with Arugula and Pomegranate Seeds

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 small buttercup squash (or other winter squash), peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 of a medium head of cauliflower, broken into florets
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3oz baby arugula
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon pomegranate molsasses
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Toss squash and cauliflower with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon and cumin on a large baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, turning once, until tender and browned in spots.

Meanwhile, toast walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned.

Place arugula in a large bowl. Whisk together the vinegar and molasses. Spoon the warm roasted vegetables over the arugula, drizzle with balsamic vinegar mixture and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss until the ingredients are coated and the arugula is slightly wilted. Stir in walnuts and pomegranate seeds and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tip: The vegetables can be roasted in advance and re-warmed before assembling the salad.

Cara Lyons, www.carascravings.com