Autumn in a bowl.
There are salads, and there are Salads. I prefer Salads with a capital “S,” salads full of good stuff beyond the base greens. I want salads with crunch from seeds or nuts, and maybe some croutons; a sweet counterpoint from sliced apples or other fruit, plus other interesting ingredients — maybe even warm ones to counter the chilled greens. This harvest kale salad with cider vinaigrette hits all the right notes, and may be the most satisfying salad you will have all autumn.
You’ll also like: Buttermilk Kale Salad With Cornbread Croutons and Roasted Beet Salad With Citrus Vinaigrette
Recipe Notes: Harvest Kale Salad With Cider Vinaigrette
There are two common types of kale: curly kale and lacinato or dinosaur kale, which has a dark green, flat leaf. Curly kale leaves are a bit more tender. Lacinato is tougher.
No matter which kale you choose, make sure to slice it into thin strips. If using lacinato kale, slice the kale into narrow strips, then massage it with your hands, scrunching the leaves up tightly to loosen the fibers and soften the texture a little.
Unlike most salads, which should be dressed immediately before serving, kale salad will not wilt terribly quickly. You can add the vinaigrette up to 30 minutes before serving, and note: You may not need to use it all.
And feel free to vary up the ingredients (see below).
As with all salads, it is appropriate, and even a good idea, to vary the ingredients depending on your preference and what is available. No apples? Try pears. No pecans, substitute walnuts. Cornbread croutons would be amazing — and my preference — here, but plain torn croutons are never wrong.
I wrote this salad recipe as vegan, but I certainly think some crumbled bacon or some chopped slices of prosciutto would make an excellent salty counterpoint to the sweet butternut squash and fruit.
Have fun with it, and make it your own.
Making Croutons for the Salad
I have two go-to crouton recipes, neither of which are really recipes at all. More like guidance.
The first is for cornbread croutons. I love these because they are more dense and interesting than bread croutons, and stand up well in this hearty salad.
To make cornbread croutons:
- Preheat the oven to 275°F.
- Spread one-inch chunks of cornbread on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden and crisp. Let cool. You will need about one cup of cornbread cubes total.
To make torn bread croutons:
- Cut or tear a four or five-ounce hunk of bread into cubes and toss with three tablespoons of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt.
- Roast on a sheet pan for eight to 10 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, until golden brown. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Harvest Kale and Butternut Squash Salad With Cider Vinaigrette
For the Roasted Butternut Squash
- 1 1/2 pounds diced butternut squash, fresh or frozen
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- fresh black pepper
For the Maple Cider Vinaigrette (Yield: 3/4 cup)
- 6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (I like Braggs)
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon French whole grain mustard, such as Maille
- 1 1/2 pounds roasted butternut squash (see above)
- 2/3 cup dried cranberries
- 2 bunches kale, curly or lacinato (flat-leaf)
- 1 large apple, thinly sliced
- 2/3 cup pecan halves
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- salt and pepper
For the Butternut Squash
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and line or grease a sheet pan. Toss the squash with olive oil, salt, and some black pepper.
- Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until soft. Keep warm or at room temperature. (Can be made up to two days in advance and then rewarmed.)
For the Vinaigrette
- Whisk together all of the ingredients until emulsified. Taste for seasoning.
- Toss the kale, squash, dried cranberries, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and apples together in a bowl. Add most, but not all, of the vinaigrette by running it around the edge of the mixing bowl. Toss until fully combined. Taste a leaf or two of kale to see if you need more vinaigrette and to check for seasoning. PRO TIP: Never dump your salad dressing in the middle of the salad and then stir. Always run the vinaigrette around the rim of the bowl. This helps diffuse the salad dressing more efficiently, and prevents the salad greens from being weighted down. In this case, kale is a little heartier, but this is an especially important tip with delicate greens.
- Serve, garnishing with an additional sprinkle of seeds or nuts.