Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Dried Cranberries & Pepitas

I know what you’re thinking. “Yawn…another kale salad.” If you’re thinking that, then you’re right. This is just another kale salad. But, it’s a damn good salad. So, there’s that.

There is a recipe for this salad, but it’s loose. In general, I’m no great fan of salad recipes. I like my salad how I like my salad, and I tend to use recipes for inspiration rather than detailed instruction. What if I like more dressing? Maybe I want more goodies in my salad. Perhaps my “bite-sized” pieces are smaller than yours. You get the point.

This recipe (like most of my recipes) is just a guide. If you hate kale or are so sick of hearing about it that you just might scream, then use a different green. Anthony and I have made this salad with thinly sliced collards. We’ve also made it with a combination of spinach, arugula, and mustard greens. When we don’t have squash around we make it with sweet potatoes and it’s just as delicious. And if you can’t find pepitas, then sliced almonds make a nice substitute (that’s what Mom used when she took this photo!), but really any nut will do.

You’ll notice from this recipe that I am not a kale “massager.” The way I see it, if I don’t get to have regular massages…then why should my produce? But I should also admit that I’m not offended by roughage. In fact, it makes me feel healthier when I eat kale (or cabbage or collards) and it feels like I’m eating something that can really cleanse my system. So, I consider the slightly more toothsome texture an added benefit. But if you’re into fondling your greens, then–by all means–feel free to rub the dressing into the leaves to tenderize them. If you want a more tender salad without the tedious massaging, just dress the greens 10 to 15 minutes before you want to serve the salad and let it rest. Then add all the other goodies before you sit down to eat.

This is a great salad. It’s a forgiving salad. And it fills you up enough to make a good lunch, or even a light dinner (with some bread and maybe a hunk of cheese). So stop yawning and try it!

Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Dried Cranberries & Pepitas
Serves: 6 to 8
For the Kale Salad
  • 1 large bunch of kale, washed, tough stems removed, and leaves cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ a medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon pimentón (smoked paprika), divided
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle powder, divided
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
For the Spicy, Smoky Balsamic Vinaigrette (Make about 1 cup)
  • 1 small handful (about ¼ cup) fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • ½ jalapeño pepper, more or less to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon pimentón
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. Turn the broiler on high, and move your oven rack to the upper-middle position.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the squash, olive oil, ¼ teaspoon pimentón, ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder, salt, and pepper. Transfer the squash to a rimmed baking sheet and broil, stirring occasionally, until tender and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before assembling the salad.
  3. Meanwhile, set a small skillet over medium heat and add a touch of olive oil. Add the pepitas, the remaining pimentón and chipotle powder, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Toast the pepitas, stirring frequently, until they smell nutty and start to brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the kale and vinaigrette, using as much or as little dressing as you like. Add the squash, pepitas, and dried cranberries, and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more dressing, as necessary.
  5. For the Spicy, Smoky Balsamic Vinaigrette: In a food processor or blender, whirl the parsley, garlic, jalapeño, mustard, and spices until puréed. Add vinegar, lemon juice, pimentón, salt, and pepper, and process until the ingredients well-blended. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil and blend until emulsified. Season to taste, adding more lemon juice, oil, salt, pepper, or spices as necessary.
Have fun with this salad and make it your own–add more or less of any of the ingredients, if you like. It’s pretty forgiving and tasty no matter what.


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  1. says

    This caught my eye on Tastespotting this morning — partly because my family is on Phase I of the South Beach Diet and I think this would qualify, but also because these are ingredients that I use regularly and I’ve just never put the two together — go figure! Kudos to you!

  2. Jason says

    Pretty sure I had this salad at a great restaurant in Denver (Sugarmill) a few days ago, and desperately wanted to recreate it at home. Thank you!

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