Crisp, frigid days customarily inspire foods that are cooked long and slow and served piping hot to warm our bones and nourish our souls during the cold winter months. For me, the same usually applies to my vegetable side dishes (besides the cooked long and slow detail, for the most part). There is no question that my cravings for fresh, cold foods, like big, crunchy salads, plummet once December hits. Of course, part of that relies on the fact that most garden bounty this time of year is devoid of any bold flavor and is frequently watery and bland.
Enter kale, the perfect foil for salad lovers who need their raw vegetable fix in the off-season. The dark leafy green has seen its share of the spotlight lately, and for good reason. Its strong, assertive punch and hardy structure are adaptable to many culinary applications, and its nutritional profile is a force to be reckoned with, exhibiting unprecedented levels of vitamins K, A, and C. Plus, kale thrives in cold weather, actually becoming sweeter after a frost.
This winter salad features a variety of flavors that work in perfect harmony. The slightly bitter kale leaves are offset by the caramelized sweetness of roasted squash and onions, the briny feta, and the tart dressing. I’ve found the secret to tenderizing kale leaves for a superior salad is to first toss the shredded leaves with a little olive oil and salt, then use your fingertips to massage the leaves for a few minutes until they’re wilted and bright green before you add the remaining ingredients.
2 small bunches kale, (I like to use a combination of Lacinato and curly green or red), washed, stems removed, then thinly shredded
1 medium-sized meaty winter squash (example butternut, acorn, hubbard), peeled and diced into ½-inch cubes, about 4 cups total
1 large red onion, diced in ½-inch cubes
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 lemon, juiced (about ¼ cup juice)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and cracked pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss squash cubes and red onion with a drizzle of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer, and roast in oven until caramelized and tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
2. Wash and remove stems from kale. Stack leaves on top of each other, and roll up into a long cigar. Thinly slice into ribbons about 1/8-inch thick. Place in a large bowl. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a nice sprinkling of salt. Massage kale with your hands until wilted to approximately half its original volume and leaves turn bright green.
3. Combine lemon juice with mustard and remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add roasted vegetables to kale and drizzle with dressing. Toss gently to combine.
4. Pour salad into a serving bowl and sprinkle with feta.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
·chemical- and hormone-free meat
·pastured-raised, organic eggs
·whole, unrefined grains
·virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
·whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
·pure, clean, spring water
·raw and/or cultured milk and cream products