The beauty of this salad lies in its sweet layers of caramelized squash, the sweet jewel-bursts of pomegranate seeds, and the toasty crunch of almonds in every bite. But as a bonus, the choice of kale means it will holds up beautifully for hours after dressed with vinaigrette, unlike delicate lettuces that almost immediately lose their luster. Thanksgiving is a perfect occasion for make-ahead salads, freeing you from a last-minute dash to dress the greens.
The trick to a good kale salad? Thoroughly massaging the fibrous leaves with salt and acid; this tenderizes the kale and increases the availability of its many nutrients, like vitamins A and K and cancer-fighting carotenoids. Offer this salad as a vibrant healthy side to a big holiday spread or even on a normal weeknight, with extras packed into tomorrow’s lunch.
Festive Delicata Squash and Kale Salad
1 ½ pounds delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced into ½–inch half-circles
1 ¾ teaspoon sea salt, divided
½ cup whole almonds
12 ounces kale, stemmed and sliced into ½–inch strips
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ head radicchio, cored and sliced thin
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
- Preheat oven to 400˚F. Toss sliced squash with oil and ¾ teaspoon salt. Lay squash in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until bottom surface is golden and browned, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Reduce oven to 350˚F. Toast almonds on a baking sheet until golden and aromatic, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven and roughly chop. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, maple syrup and 1 teaspoon salt in a very large bowl. Add the kale and coat with the dressing; vigorously squeeze and massage kale with hands until leaves are darkened and slightly wilted, at least a minute. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Add the roasted squash and radicchio, and toss to gently coat. To serve, transfer to a platter and scatter over toasted almonds and pomegranate seeds.
- Kale Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato. Replace delicata squash with 1 ½ pounds sweet potato. Peel and dice in ½-inch chunks and roast as directed.
- Kale Salad with Fennel. Replace radicchio with 2 large fennel bulbs. Chop off fennel tops and discard. Slice bulbs in half from top to bottom. Slice again into quarters, and then slice out the wedge of core. Moving your knife parallel to the root end, cut the fennel in very thin slices. Add to the salad in lieu of the radicchio.
- Kale Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts. Replace the almonds with ½ cup of hazelnuts. After toasted and cooled, rub off most of the skins with a paper towel. Roughly chop and add before serving.
For good-tasting vinaigrette, a great rule of thumb is 1 part acid for every 2 parts oil. If it tastes too tart, gradually add more oil until balanced. Note that acid can be anything from citrus juice (lemon, lime) to vinegars (apple cider, sherry, balsamic). Don’t forget the salt, too; start with a few pinches and taste as you tweak. Add some honey or maple syrup for sweetness.
Everything from the squash and kale to the toasted almonds are rich in healthy plant fiber.
Research shows that glucosinolates in kale support the body’s detoxification pathways via compounds called isothiocyanates.
Raw greens, especially of the cruciferous family, have a reputation for being hard to digest. Finely chopping them and massaging their leaves with salt and oil help soften and break down the tough cell walls in much the same way as cooking with heat. Plus, you still win the benefits of uncooked, vitamin-packed greens.