Tuesday, April 10, 2012

An Epic Salad

Yes, that's right, I just called a salad "epic."  This one truly is. 

I had Easter dinner with some friends here in Glasgow on Sunday and my contribution was a starter. Lamb would be served as the main course and I went around and around and around trying to come up with a good recipe to start off the meal. Mushrooms on toast? Crab and artichoke dip? Some sort of quiche or tart? I was feeling pretty stumped. Then my other half suggested a kale salad I'd made before with a lemon-shallot-vinaigrette and shaved Parmesan. Hmmm, that was intriguing (and tasty), but I wanted something with a little more oomph for a holiday meal.

Martha Stewart to the rescue! I love Martha, always have. This is the first time in about 15 years that I haven't had a subscription to her magazine and it's a little odd. However, I do have access to her website and it saved the day. This recipe was published in January 2012- the month after I cancelled my subscription and moved to the UK. I am so glad I found it, even if it was a couple months behind.

I knew I was going to like it; the two main components, kale and butternut squash, are absolute favorites of mine. The extras that went into it are also good: caramelized shallots, toasted nuts, and cheese. I wasn't totally stoked on all the ingredients- hazelnuts aren't my favorite and aged goat cheese is a little tricky to come by here. I had sliced almonds in the fridge and I love Manchego cheese so swapped those ingredients in. Also, as I started the recipe and cut open the butternut squash, the seeds looked too good to pass up. I brined and toasted them and added them to the salad as well. They added a dash of spice and just the right sort of crunch, a hollow crunch, to compliment the toasted almonds. This salad does require a bit of multi-tasking and managing things in the oven, but it's totally worth it. The recipe said it serves 6-8, but it was polished off by five of us. I think that's the mark of an epic salad.

Kale & Butternut Squash Salad
modified from Martha Stewart
Serves 6

1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 large shallots, thinly sliced
Sea salt
Black pepper
Spicy Paprika
Olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon)
1 1/2 bunches kale (~200 g)
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Cleaned butternut squash seeds
4 ounces (150 g) Manchego cheese, shaved

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Toss butternut squash with olive oil, sea salt, pepper and a dash of spicy paprika, spread onto a baking sheet. Roast until soft and a little caramelized, tossing occasionally, about 45 minutes.

2. Toss thinly sliced shallots with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish and roast until lightly caramelized, about 30 minutes.

3. Thinly slice the kale into ribbons (remove stems if they are too tough). Combine lemon juice with 3 tablespoons olive oil, some sea salt and pepper; shake until emulsified. Toss kale with dressing in the salad bowl, massaging the dressing into the kale leaves. Weigh kale down with a small bowl or plate to encourage marinating. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

4. Toast almonds in the oven, keeping an eye on them to prevent burning, about 5 minutes.

5. Brine and toast butternut squash seeds. Clean seeds of pulp, then mix with water, a dash of olive oil, and salt in the following proportions: 1 cup seeds: 2 cups water: 2 tablespoons salt. One butternut squash yielded 1/4 cup of seeds so I used 1/2 cup water and 1/2 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes. When brined, drain seeds then spread them on a baking sheet. Toss with a dash of olive oil, sea salt, and spicy paprika. Put in oven and roast for about 15 minutes, tossing and testing them occasionally.

6. Add the squash, shallots, almonds, toasted seeds, and Manchego to the kale in the salad bowl and toss to combine. Enjoy!

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