Roasted butternut squash and kale are tossed with dried cranberries, crispy prosciutto, shaved Parmesan and lemon vinaigrette in this hearty fall salad.
So, have we hit kale overload yet? Has it gone the way of the pumpkin latte or avocado toast for you? Well, here’s hoping you have room for one more kale salad in your repertoire. This one screams fall. It’s loaded with roasted butternut squash, dried cranberries, shaved Parmesan and even some crispy prosciutto bits of deliciousness. I toss it with a zingy lemon vinaigrette for just the right balance of sweet, salty and tangy.
When I was growing up, salad meant iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. If you were really adventurous, you could go with Romaine. Or throw in some croutons. You crazy nut. Salad was never considered an entrée, you didn’t put a lovely piece of grilled fish or chicken on top and call it dinner. You served it on a little plate next to your proper meal and sighed as you stabbed at it with your salad fork. Bo-ring.
But now the market is packed with greens; gorgeous, dark, leafy greens full of actual vitamins and minerals and antioxidants and FLAVOR. And combine these with the myriad of vegetables, fruit, nuts or cheese available and you’ve got an elevated dish that deserves to sit front and center on the dinner table.
I’ve long been a fan of baby spinach, peppery arugula and delicate mache. I took a little longer to warm kale. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that I considered the main purpose of kale a way to show off the finer cuts of meat in my butcher’s display case. But in my smoothie? In my Caesar salad? Hmmmm…
Then of course, the kale salad was suddenly everywhere, from the fine dining establishments of celebrity chefs to your local diner or deli. But not all kale or kale salads are created equal. Curly kale (that one you’ve seen garnishing the veggies on the salad bar but not an actual choice in the salad bar) is not my personal favorite for salads. Kale chips, yes; braised kale, sure; raw and tossed with dressing? Not for me. I don’t enjoy the curly texture in my salad or the bitter bite. My choice? Lacinato kale (aka Tuscan kale, dinosaur kale, black kale…this baby has more aliases than Micheal Caine in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).
Perfect for salads, lacinato kale sports a bumpy, dark, almost bluish-green leaf that has a slightly sweet, earthy, some say even nutty flavor compared to the curly variety. When prepping the kale, be sure to remove the stem that runs down the center of the leaf as it is tough, fibrous and really unpalatable. Then, chiffonade the leaves for the salad. Sexy when I get all French and cheffy on you right? Chiffonade translates simply to “little ribbons” and it’s a cutting technique well suited to kale leaves. Remove that pesky stem, stack the leaves, roll tightly from end to tip and slice thinly. Walla! Kale ribbons!
Another plus to this hearty green is it holds up well after it’s dressed. In fact, I Iike it best when it’s been dressed for at least 30 minutes prior to eating. Give it a good toss with the dressing, let stand (can be hours actually) and when you’re ready to serve, throw in the remaining ingredients and another splash of vinigarette. Yum.
This salad doesn’t even seem a distant cousin to the iceberg salads of my youth. (Don’t get me wrong, I still dig a wedge of iceberg, smothered in blue cheese and bacon, but that’s another animal entirely.) This salad is all grown up and substantial enough to be a light main course or a great way to start off an autumn meal.
- 1 medium butternut squash peeled, seeds scraped out and cubed
- 3 Tbsp chives minced
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 pound prosciutto
- 2 bunches Lacinato Tuscan kale
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- Wedge of Parmesan cheese for shaving
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper.
Toss the cubed squash with one tablespoon chives and and two tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Roast squash for 20-25 minutes, or until softened and slightly browned. Remove and let stand at room temperature.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and lay prosciutto slices on a parchment lined sheet tray, do not overlap.
Roast until prosciutto begins to crisp, being careful not to burn, about 15 minutes.
Remove and let cool, then crumble into pieces and set aside.
While squash is roasting, wash kale thoroughly and pat dry.
Remove the stems from the center of the kale leaves. I fold the leaf in half and slice the stem away from the side.
Stack three or four leaves at a time, roll from stem to tip and slice into ribbons and place in a large bowl.
For the vinaigrette, combine the honey, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice and zest in a mini food processor or in a small bowl. If using the food processor, blend well, then add the olive oil and blend until emulsified. Otherwise whisk ingredients together, then add the oil in a steady stream while continuously whisking to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper.
Toss the kale well with enough vinaigrette to coat, a sprinkling of salt and let stand for at least 30 minutes or longer. Reserve the remaining vinaigrette.
To serve, toss kale, squash, chives and cranberries. Top with shaved Parmesan (use a vegetable peeler to shave the wedge of cheese) and crispy prosciutto. Add more dressing if desired.