Dinner Rush! Roasted Fall Salad with Warm Bacon-Pumpkin Vinaigrette

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If the idea of a warm vinaigrette blows your mind a little bit, welcome to my life about five years ago. While I was working at The Rachael Ray Show, my producer, Emily — as she would often do — took advantage of some downtime between segments to make lunch from whatever odds and ends were in our walk-in refrigerator. Business as usual.

With a head of escarole, pound of bacon, jar of mustard and shallot in hand, she turned an otherwise standard-issue lunch salad on its head right before my very eyes.

Call me sheltered, but I had honestly never had a warm vinaigrette before! While the principle of a vinaigrette is the same warm or cold — whisk together an acid and an emulsifier and get to tossing — doing the whole thing warm (with the added help of a pound of bacon) was transformative. Not only did it show that hearty escarole who was boss, but it was an easy and impressive lesson — one of many, I might add, that came out of working in the prep kitchen of that show — that sticks with me to this very day.

Roasted Fall Salad with Warm Bacon-Pumpkin Vinaigrette

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

For the salad:
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, stemmed and halved
3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ground coriander
Salt and ground black pepper

5 cups hearty mixed greens (such as chicory, spinach, frisee, escarole or kale), washed and coarsely chopped

1/3 cup pomegranate arils

For the dressing:
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup warm water, as needed
Salt and ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium mixing bowl, toss together the Brussels sprouts, carrots, olive oil, coriander, and some salt and pepper to evenly coat the vegetables. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast them, tossing occasionally, until tender, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, gather the greens and pomegranate arils in a large mixing or serving bowl and reserve.

When the vegetables have about 5 minutes left to cook, prepare the dressing. Place a medium saute pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the bacon. Cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and whisk the mustard, syrup or honey, vinegar and pumpkin together in the pan. While whisking constantly, stream the remaining olive oil into the pan and mix until combined. While continuing to whisk constantly, slowly stream the warm water into the pan until the dressing reaches a pourable consistency. Remove the pan from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, toss the prepared salad ingredients and roasted vegetables together with the warm vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

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