Butternut Squash & Kale Salad

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Despite the unrelenting heat of Southern California, autumn is nearly here, as evidenced by the produce that came in my last CSA box. I got two huge butternut squashes. So, even though it was nearly 100 degrees outside, I had to roast one (and the seeds that came in it). But roasting the squash heated up my kitchen so much, that the thought of eating something hot was quite unappealing to me.  So we ate it cold, tossed in a salad of slightly wilted kale and topped with a maple vinaigrette.

We eat a lot of kale. And by a lot, I mean that we eat it several times a week…sometimes roasted, sometimes braised, sometimes slivered and raw in salads, and sometimes in juice or smoothies. But I don’t think that I have ever tried it this way–sauteed ever so briefly in some olive oil just to soften it a little. Kale is quite bitter, and a long, slow braise not only tenderizes its sometimes tough veins, but it also mellows it. It’s a method often used in Southern cooking, and one that I love, especially when some bacon or ham is tossed into the mix. Bacon makes everything better, yes?

But this night a quick saute was all I could muster in my over-heated kitchen.  And it was wonderful. Because butternut squash is so sweet, and because I tossed the whole lot with a maple vinaigrette, a quick stir in a hot pan tenderized the kale just enough and took the edge off the bitterness. It also turned the kale’s leaves from dull to brilliant green. Paired with the orange squash it was a knockout in both flavor and color. The crunchy, salty and buttery seeds from inside the butternut were the perfect finishing touch. I think this dish will appear often on our table this fall. I hope you give it a try too.

Butternut Squash & Kale Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This hearty kale and butternut squash salad, is bright in both flavor and color. Look for La Tourangelle brand of roasted nut oils in your specialty food market or online (I've even found them at Home Goods) to add to the dressing. In a pinch, extra virgin olive oil is fine too.
Serves: serves 4
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing:
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon pure (grade B) maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoon roasted hazelnut oil (or roasted walnut oil, or olive oil)
  • 2 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar
  • pinch each of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds into a sieve. Discard any remaining pulp from the center of the squash. Rinse the seeds and dry in a clean towel. Toss the seeds with the melted butter and spread evenly on a small baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt.
  2. Cut the butternut squash into 1 inch (approximately) cubes. Toss with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place both the seeds and the squash in the oven. Take the seeds out of the oven after they are golden brown and crispy, about 10-15 minutes. Watch them carefully in they can burn quickly. Reserve seeds in a small bowl lined with a paper towel.
  3. Continue baking the squash for about 25-35 minutes more (for a total of 35-45 minutes), flipping the cubes over halfway though. Remove the squash from the oven when it is tender when pierced with a knife and is golden brown on the edges. Place 1 cup of the roasted squash on a platter or a shallow salad bowl. Reserve the rest for another use.
  4. While the squash is cooking, prepare the kale by tearing the leaves from the main stem that runs down the center of the leaves. Discard the stem. Rinse the kale and squeeze out any excess moisture. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Drizzle the pan lightly with olive oil, about 1 tablespoon. Add the kale and cook, stirring frequently, until the kale wilts slightly and becomes a bright green color, about 2-3 minutes. Add it to the platter with the squash.
  5. Make the dressing. Whisk the shallot, maple syrup and Dijon together in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil and vinegar until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Toss the butternut squash and the kale with a bit of the dressing, using only enough to lightly coat the leaves. You will probably have some dressing leftover. Top the salad with the reserved roasted squash seeds. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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