Autumn Leaves - 405 Magazine

Autumn Leaves

Salad isn’t just for summer — try these heartier fall variations.

Photo by Rachel Maucieri.

Salad isn’t just for summer — try these heartier fall variations. 

Late fall dining is fraught with holiday-based temptations, beginning with Halloween and moving right through Thanksgiving to build up to the year’s end. It’s easier to eat lighter in the summer; no one wants heavy fare when the temps are moving back and forth across the 100-degree mark. But fall and winter bring comfort food in waves, and one of the easiest ways to enjoy the season and its flavors without going overboard in terms of calories is with salad. Yes, salad. 

Luke Fry, executive chef of Scratch at 132 W. Main St. in Norman, describes the keywords of fall salad as spiced, crunchy, roasty and creamy. The ingredients move away from zippy acids, citrus and warm-weather vegetables to squash, nuts, pepitas, baking spices and heavier but still healthy-ish compositions. 

“My favorite is the combination of heat and fall spices,” Fry said. “I like combining clove and cinnamon and nutmeg with chili powder and cayenne, so not only do you get the warmth in your soul from a nice allspice-roasted piece of butternut squash, but you can also get the warmth in your mouth from the smoked guajillo-maple brittle.” 

Definitely not spring and summer salad talk in that description, but it does sound delicious and hearty. For the fall and early winter, Scratch has a butternut squash and brie salad: roasted butternut squash tossed with spinach, drunken cranberries and fresh orange segments in an orange-clove vinaigrette, served with maple-bacon pecan brittle and creamy warm brie. It’s a meal in a bowl, redolent with the aromas of fall. 

Cafe 7 (14101 N. May Ave., OKC) has been a salad destination since it opened 15 years ago, and changes its salads seasonally, which means you’re getting fresh, seasonal ingredients. The bonus is that the pricing is right for families without sacrificing quality. Co-founder and operating partner J. Mays is a salad maestro, whose approach is always based on combining layers of flavors and textures in creative, satisfying salads. 

“When the weather starts to get cooler, I think most everyone realizes what is right around the corner with glutinous holiday meals,” Mays said. “So for me, the perfect fall salad is something that is light and filling with flavors that reflect the season — apples, walnuts and sun-dried cranberries are a magical trio that lend their complementary flavors to dishes ranging from oatmeal to poultry. When mixed with balsamic vinaigrette and greens, they make a fantastic salad.”

Cafe 7’s signature salad wasn’t created as a fall dish, but it works beautifully as one, with romaine lettuce and field greens tossed with roasted chicken breast, cranberries, apples, toasted walnuts, fresh tomatoes and bacon, finished with balsamic dressing. The crunchiness is one of its most satisfying qualities — sort of like eating tortilla chips, but better for you. 

If you want to cheat just a little, pop into Gilded Acorn, Chef Andrew Black’s newest concept at 146 Park Ave. in downtown OKC, and get its remarkable egg salad on greens. The egg salad is good enough to eat by itself with just a spoon, but if you put it on greens, it’s magically transformed into a salad. Fair warning: While you’re in Gilded Acorn, you’ll be tempted by the pastry case. On the other hand, this is basically the holiday season, and you’re having a salad … so bon appétit.

The signature salad at Cafe 7 is perfect for fall dining. Photo by Rachel Maucieri.