Will I ever tire of kale salads? Probably not, especially if they contain apples and cheese and roasted squash. I love the fresh, grassy flavor of raw kale, and I love how sturdy and convenient the leftovers are. This recipe might seem similar to others I’ve made in the past, but it might even better, because it’s rounded out with croutons that give it enough heft to be a main course. Throw in an assertive maple-mustard-balsamic vinaigrette and the satisfyingly meaty flavor of smoked cheese, and who could resist?
I’m not sure where I stumbled across a link to this post at Five and Spice, but I was immediately taken with the idea of a wintery spin on the classic panzanella. The original recipe included roasted beets, but beets are one of the few vegetables I just can’t find a love for no matter how hard I try (they taste like dirt to me), so I skipped those and increased the squash quantity instead (I hate using only part of a squash anyway). I also increased the kale amount (to use a full bunch and because I adore it), decreased the bread (so all the croutons fit in my 12-inch skillet in an even layer) and replaced the smoked mozzarella with smoked Gouda (because I love Gouda but don’t remember to buy it often enough). All good moves, but I’m particularly proud of my two final touches: throwing the red onion in the oven with the squash instead of leaving it raw (because roasted onion is crazy delicious and raw can be overpowering), and adding dried thyme to the croutons (which I know from experience makes them extra irresistible).
The end result is an incredibly pleasing jumble of textures (crisp, crunchy, tender, creamy, chewy) and flavors (sweet, tart, smoky, salty, savory) that makes a great lunch or light dinner. It’s so good, I’m almost sad that winter is over and soon butternut squash will be out of season…. That is, until I remember that soon I’ll be able to eat my delicious summer kale salad.
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3-4 cups)
1 medium red onion, cut into thin wedges (eighths or sixteenths)
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6-8 ounces ciabatta or other good, crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, crushed and minced (about ¼ teaspoon)
1 bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1 large, tart, crisp apple (I recommend Granny Smith), cored and cubed
About 4-6 ounces smoked Gouda, cut into ½-inch cubes (about ½-¾ cup)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment, place the cubed squash and onion wedges on it, and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste. Spread the vegetables out in a single layer, put the baking sheet in the oven, and roast until tender and browned, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and toss well. Season with salt and pepper and the dried thyme. Toast, tossing frequently, until croutons are crisp and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Gradually whisk in ¼ cup oil, mixing until emulsified.
- Place the sliced kale in a large bowl and pour about half the dressing over it. Toss well to coat, massaging the dressing into the kale with your hands. Let the kale sit in the dressing for at least 15 minutes.
- Once the butternut squash and onions have cooled to about room temperature, add them to the bowl with the kale. Add a little more dressing and toss again. Add the cheese and apple cubes, finish with dressing to taste (you may not quite use it all), and toss thoroughly until well combined.
- About 15 minutes before serving, add the bread cubes and toss well. (But if you are saving some salad for later, store the bread cubes for those servings separately and don’t add them to the salad until shortly before you plan to eat it.)
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Great (store bread cubes separately from rest of salad).