Harvest Cobb Salad
I discovered the Cobb salad power lunch during my first year working a big-girl office job. My manager took me out for lunch, a true treat for a brown-bagging, fresh college grad with more student loans than professional experience. We sat down at a popular lunch spot, and I felt clueless as to what would be “appropriate” to order. My manager ordered the Cobb salad, dressing on the side…so I ordered the Cobb salad, dressing on the side. I carefully loaded my first forkful in what I hoped was a polished manner, lifted it to my lips, and OH MY GOODNESS. If wearing a suit and working in a cubicle meant I could eat Cobb salad every day for the rest of my career, I might survive after all.
Eight years later, my work environment and wardrobe have changed (can you say kitchen table and leggings?), but my love of Cobb salad has remained steadfast.
Forget the wimpy salads that leave you hungry and wishing you’d ordered the burger. Cobb salad is super-loaded to satisfy and sustain. It combines some of the best salad toppings in life (bacon and avocado, I’m looking at you) with chicken, cheese, and other yumminess, then tosses them together in a lively vinaigrette.
We almost never eat salad for dinner at home, but since a Cobb is the one-and-only salad that Ben considers “real food,” I decided to make a version of it for our main meal. I kept the Cobb essentials—bacon, chicken, avocado, and hard boiled eggs—then incorporated a few of my favorite fall ingredients to give the salad a harvest twist.
Alongside the classic Cobb ingredients, today’s Cobb has roasted butternut squash, apples, cranberries, and toasted pepitas. I swapped the blue cheese for goat cheese, then topped it off with a creamy cider Dijon dressing.
The play of flavors and textures in this Harvest Cobb Salad are outstanding. We have the crunchiness of the bacon and pepitas, the creaminess of the avocado and goat cheese, the satisfaction-factor of the chicken and eggs, plus the sweetness and chew of the cranberries.
I happily devoured this autumn-inspired Cobb for lunch and dinner in the same day. Salad-skeptical Ben even gave it his blessing to be added to our regular dinner rotation, a prized status he typically reserves for homemade pizza and healthy Buffalo chicken.
In addition to being a salad that satisfies, this Harvest Cobb Salad feels special enough to grace a holiday table. If you are looking to add a little green to round out your Thanksgiving or holiday menu, consider the Cobb. It does have quite a few components, but each one is easy and can be prepped well in advance. See notes below for more prep directions.
Tools I used to make this recipe:
- All purpose sheet pan and oven-safe baking rack (for baking the bacon)
- Indoor grill pan (for the chicken)
Harvest Salad with Butternut Squash
A fall twist on everyone’s favorite Cobb Salad: butternut squash, apples and cranberries with bacon, avocado and chicken, tossed in an easy cider dressing.
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 45 minutes (less if ingredients are prepped ahead)
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes (no prep); 10 minutes (with prep)
For the Cobb Salad:
- 1 small butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon
- 4 large eggs,
- 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 8 cups mixed greens, such as Romaine, spinach, arugula, or baby kale (about 20 ounces)
- 1 sweet, crisp apple such as gala or honeycrisp, cored thinly sliced (no need to peel)
- 2 ripe avocados, sliced
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (about 2 ounces)
- 1/3 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
For the Dressing:
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Cook the squash: Place over racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread squash cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet, then drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat. Bake the squash until tender and caramelized, 15-20 minutes, turning once throughout. Set aside.
- Bake the bacon: Place an ovenproof baking rack on a second baking sheet. Coat with cooking spray, then arrange the bacon slices on the rack in a single layer. Place on the second rack in the oven with the squash. Bake until the bacon is as crisp as you like, about 12-20 minutes depending upon the thickness of your bacon. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and pat dry. Dice and set aside.
- Hard boil the eggs: In a small pot, bring just enough water to cover the eggs to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and gently lower the eggs in with a slotted spoon. Bring water to a low, rumbling boil, then let cook for 9 minutes. A few minutes before the eggs are finished cooking, prepare an ice bath. Remove the eggs from the boiling water and plunge into the cold water. Let rest a few minutes, then tap the eggs with back of a spoon to crack them (this will make peeling easier). Return to the ice water to cool completely. Peel the eggs, then cut into slices. Set aside.
- Cook the chicken: Heat a grill pan or an outdoor grill over medium heat. Lightly pound the chicken to an even thickness and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Grill for about 4 minutes per side, until cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Remove to plate, cover, and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside. (If you prefer shredded chicken instead of grilled, prepare it according to this method.)
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the dressing ingredients: olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon, garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Place the salad greens in a large bowl. Add the butternut squash, bacon, chicken, eggs, and apple. Drizzle with the dressing, toss gently to coat. Scatter the avocado, cranberries, goat cheese, and pepitas over the top. Enjoy!
- The butternut squash, bacon, eggs, and chicken can all be prepared 2 days in advance. The dressing can be prepared up to 5 days in advance. Store items individually in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, let the chicken, squash, and bacon come to room temperature, then assemble the salad as directed. If possible, wait to add the apple and avocado until right before serving, so that they don’t turn brown.
Serving Size: 1 (of 4)
- Amount Per Serving:
- Calories: 615
- Total Fat: 43g
- Saturated Fat: 10g
- Cholesterol: 216mg
- Sodium: 631mg
- Carbohydrates: 42g
- Fiber: 17g
- Sugar: 19g
- Protein: 22g