Warm Autumn Squash and Goat Cheese Salad

Today’s guest post is courtesy of Natalie Hoch, who spent a number of years as a vegetarian before a well-timed slice of jamon serrano sent her careening back to her carnivorous ways. Despite her renewed willingness to tear into a steak, Natalie’s true love has always been leafy greens, and she’ll be contributing regularly to Good. Food. Stories. as our semi-official salads columnist.

Salad has always been my all-time favorite, to the ridicule, shock, and enjoyment of friends and family. I love all foods, but something about salad really does it for me. As long as I can remember, my mother has recounted endless evenings around the dinner table when I passed on dessert for more salad. No joke. A five year old skipping the brownie for more iceberg and mustard vinaigrette. Our family followed my Dad’s Swiss family tradition of having salad at the end of the meal and I ritualistically gobbled up the last bits of dressed lettuce as the plates were cleared.

This obsession continued, even blossomed, during my college years when I had free reign of my own fridge for the first time. My roommates will attest that I was often found chopping veggies and whisking up vinaigrettes drunk at 2:00 am while everyone else wolfed down mac and cheese. I’ve even been known to crave a crisp, ranch-smothered salad to ease the pain of a particularly vicious hangover. It’s weird, I know.

I think it all boils down to my longstanding, unwavering, and at times unhealthy love affair with vinegar. I can’t get enough of the stuff—cider, red wine, sherry, balsamic, you name it (although my “death row” salad would be tossed in a good red wine vin). As a kid, I used to bribe my grandmother into spoon-feeding me the stuff when mom and dad weren’t looking. And as a grown woman, I regularly solicit the stern scolding of my husband when I serve myself an overly vinegared salad, as it almost always ends up in a brief but brutal tummyache.

Beyond the vinegar, though, I love the endless options of salads. So many variations—each so different from the next. They can be comforting, light, hearty, satisfying, refreshing, or indulgent. Entrée, appetizer, side, or even dessert. Anyone who knows me longer than a day knows about my salad obsession—and at this point anyone I love, even a little bit, has had one of my salads. It will always be my assignment for any potluck I attend, and this suits me just fine.

I like salads to be seasonal, inspired, and well-balanced in flavors, textures, and colors. Here in Brooklyn, the weather’s chilly, the leaves are changing, and the farmers’ market is in full fall mode, inspiring many delightful combinations. Here’s a salad to celebrate the season:

butternut squash salad

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  1. Becky says

    It’s your parents dressing that put you over the edge, I’m sure. I have never been able to properly replicate it.

  2. Mary says

    Recipe and your confessions of being a salad-a-holic are mouth-watering. I would have to substitute blue cheese or feta for the goat cheese.

    Becky, the magical ingredients in that Hoch vinaigrette are Spice Island Beau Monde and Maggi seasoning.

  3. Debbie says

    This looks delicious. I will definitely add this to our fall meal rotation! Keep the posts from Ms Hoch coming and when can we have a potluck?

  4. Joanna says

    Having lived with Natalie for several years, I will not only vouch for her amazing salads and vinaigrettes, but I can also most certainly attest to the drunken late night chopping.

  5. says

    I’m glad you mentioned eating salad at the end of a meal. (Europeans are obsessed with digestion.)My family has always done it that way and I was confused straight through early adulthood each time I went to a wedding or event where they served the salad first.