My Favorite Delicata + Kale Salad

November 19, 2013

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been overjoyed to read the bajillion recipes for delicata squash that are popping up (this, this little digest, and this too, for instance.)  In this house, we L O V E squash, and we just can’t get enough delicata.

We discovered the ease of this little squash a couple of years ago when I fell out of love with peeling acorn squash. (Don’t get me wrong – they have their place – but not on a night when dinner is meant to be whipped up without much consequence.) From the moment we met the delicata, it has been a staple in our hearty fall salads. Over the years, our favorite concoction has transformed from a spinach salad to a warm salad to something with pasta, then beans, then… this recipe you’ll find below. Since I’ve been going through my emotional boycott of cooking, I’ve been making this salad constantly for just about everything. And, it seems, we’ve settled on this favorite concoction. So much so,  in fact, the ingredients are so similar and welcome that I can send Derek to the store to pick everything up without a list, and without complaint (Winning.) Its come to be just this super-mixture of healthy, fresh, super-powered stuff that is hearty, homey, versatile and quick.

Sometimes I struggle with good recipes to share with you all here, and certainly with getting great shots of each recipe to make sure that your eyes eat first. I’ve been promising myself that I’d start weighing out ingredients to make things more accurate, spend more mornings preparing and shooting the recipes to establish a little food dev system. But ,admittedly, it was while I was whipping up this salad to take as an in-flight-dinner last Thursday night that I decided I had to document this recipe, and had to get it out to you so I could put my “delicata stamp on the world.” In the moments before leaving for the airport, I was standing on the countertop in the kitchen, attempting to catch the last moments of afternoon light as they fell over kale leaves. Not my best work. But it really might be my best and favorite salad.

While there are lots of steps to getting the vegetables, and hazelnut dressing set up here, all of the work falls into a natural progression. Sometimes we have toasted hazelnuts on hand already, and we almost always have cooked quinoa. If you’re making this salad from ground zero, here’s my suggestion:  I like to prep and toast the hazelnuts, then roast the veggies. Pull the hazelnuts out of the oven and pop the veggies in. While the veggies are roasting, let the quinoa cook, prepare the kale + cold vegetables, and whisk the dressing. Then dump everything into a bowl and enjoy.

A couple other things; I like to really roast the bejeezus out of the squash and fennel. By that, I mean, I encourage really toasty, crispy pieces. When it comes to the dressing, if the hazelnut dressing here is a big pain, we also like this salad with toasted pumpkin seeds and a simple dressing of apple cider vinegar + olive oil + salt + pepper and maybe some hot red pepper flakes.  Last week I made the salad to accompany this soup. AND, if we’ve been on a long trail run during the day, I’ll typically make these biscuits to go with (because trail running makes us crave biscuits, of course….)

I imagine that this particular recipe will come in quite handy for us in the coming weeks as we’re planning all the other eating/cooking events on the horizon and are looking for quick, tasty and fast recipes that will feed a crowd (while all the other cooking is going on!) What other hearty fall salads are you making? How else do you use delicata squash? Keep the good stuff coming and happy cooking! – xo L

My Favorite Kale + Delicata Squash Salad
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for the salad
  1. 1 delicata squash, halved and seeded
  2. 1 bulb of fennel, trimmed
  3. 2 big bunches of lacinato kale
  4. 1 apple, halved, cored and diced
  5. 1 just-ripe avocado, seeded and sliced
  6. 1 - 1.5 cups cooked quinoa
  7. 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  8. seeds of 1/2 a pomegranate
  9. 8 oz of crumbled feta
  10. sea salt + freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  11. olive oil (for drizzling)
  12. three large pinches of herbes de provence
for the hazelnut vinaigrette
  1. 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  2. 1/4 cup organic extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 1 shallot, finely chopped
  4. 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  5. 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  6. coarse salt (to taste)
  7. 1/4 cup hazelnut oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 400F degrees and line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. On another baking sheet, place the hazelnuts and pop them in the warming oven, allowing them to toast while you prepare the vegetables. Toasting the hazelnuts should only take 10-12 minutes or so. You want the nuts to be fragrant, and well toasted. Set to work on the vegetables (below) and when the nuts are toasted, pull them from the oven and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, you'll roast the squash and fennel (if you choose to use the fennel.) Cut the squash in half, then remove the seeds with a spoon. Lay the squash seed cavity side down on a cutting board, and then cut each half in half (so, you've effectively quartered the squash.) Then, slice each quarter thinly. Repeat the quartering and slicing process with the fennel bulb. Place all of the squash and fennel slices on the baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt + pepper, and then toss with the herbes de provence on the baking sheet. Pop the sheet in the oven and roast the veggies until the squash is nice and crispy - roughly 20-30 minutes.
  4. Hopefully, you're pulling the nuts from the oven about the same time that you're popping the vegetables in. (Yay!) If so, grab a clean dishtowel and empty the still-warm hazelnuts into the towel and then wrap them up tightly. Rub the hazelnuts in the towel vigorously to remove the skins from the nuts, then open the towel. Chop the nuts and set aside.
  5. Next, prepare your salad. You should already have diced your apple and the onion, sliced the avocado and cooked the quinoa. Set a large (your largest) salad bowl up, ready to receive the fixings. Trim the kale (I like to do this by literally grabbing hold of the tough stem, and then using my fingers to rip the leaves from the stem by sliding it through my hand. Then, I take all of the leaves and roll them into a ball, slicing the leaves into thin shreds. Toss all of the kale into the bowl, add the apple, avocado, pomegranate and the quinoa. Toss to incorporate.
  6. Lastly, we'll prepare the dressing. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the chopped shallot with the olive oil and the hazelnuts. Saute the shallot until translucent, then remove the pot from heat and set aside.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, and cider vinegar. Add the shallot mixture and a pinch of coarse salt. Lastly, whisk in the hazelnut oil to emulsify the dressing and add a couple of pinches of black pepper (and maybe more salt if you like.)
  8. Surely your vegetables are done now; I like to literally use the aluminum foil as a sling and empty the fennel + squash into the kale salad while still warm.
  9. Roughly 10 minutes before serving, toss the crumbled feta into the bowl, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat evenly. (This way, the warm dressing and warm veggies will have a chance to break down the kale a bit and the flavors will mingle.)
  10. The salad keeps quite well in the fridge, stored in an airtight container, for up to two days. Usually our leftovers don't last that long because we eat them with poached or fried eggs for breakfast....enjoy!
LentineAlexis http://LentineAlexis.com/

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