Festive Kale Salad with Roasted Squash
This salad means business: maple glazed pecans, roasted delicata squash and seasoned croutons. Every bite is packed with flavor! It might just be the perfect salad to put on your holiday table. Vegan, Gluten Free option. <jump to recipe>
As the holiday season draws near, we’re looking forward to the influx of dinners spent with family and friends. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas - and all the other holidays at this time of year - there’s always a good excuse to get together, crack open a bottle of wine, and spend the evening in good company.
We’re big fans of potluck style meals when it comes to gatherings like these. Not only because it makes it much easier on the host, but also because it’s fun to try a little bit of everyone’s dish. There’s always something (or someone) that’ll surprise you. Selfishly, potluck style meals also guarantee we’ll have something vegetarian friendly. So if you see us heading over to someone’s place for a dinner celebration, there’s a good chance we’re toting along a big bowl of this Festive Kale Salad. It has so many textures and flavors that it’s always a hit with guests. I mean, who can say no to crunchy maple glazed pecans, roasted squash and golden brown croutons? We wish we had a dollar for every time someone said “I can’t believe how much I’m loving this kale”, in between giant forkfuls of salad.
What we also love about this dish is that it’s pretty low maintenance when it comes to putting it together. The kale actually gets better once it sits in the dressing for a while, so you won’t need to worry about dressing your salad just before dinner starts. Massaging the dressing into the kale - with your hands - actually helps coat the leaves best. But if you’re put off by being this “hands on”, you can use a spatula or wooden spoon to mix the dressing and kale together. The kale is very sturdy, so do take the time to ensure the leaves are well coated. That’s the secret to getting them soft and silky.
There are a few other components to this salad, like candying the pecans (much easier than it sounds), baking the croutons and roasting the squash. To make it easy to follow along, the ingredients are separated into different components in the recipe. Don’t get discouraged by what might look like a long list! Many ingredients are repeated, and once you make this salad once, we promise you’ll want to make it again.
For the squash, our favorite one to use in this salad is delicata squash. It’s skin is delicate and edible which means no peeling before baking (hurray!). But if you wish, you can substitute with another type of squash instead. Just make sure to peel it, if needed, and adjust the cook time until they’re fork tender. We like to make our own maple glazed pecans from scratch, primarily because we don’t know where to buy good ones at the store - but also because they’re a cinch to make. You could substitute with store bought ones if you prefer.
The massaged kale is very sturdy, so you can pack up any leftover salad for lunches over the next couple of days. We often do this when we make a batch for weeknight dinner for the two of us. The croutons are the only things that can go soft after a day or two in the fridge, so we usually leave them out of leftovers or put fresh ones on top.
So there you have it: another plant-based meal idea to add to your holiday list! When paired with our Vegan Meatballs and Mushroom Gravy (pictured above), it really shows how you don’t need meat for an epic holiday feast!
FESTIVE KALE SLAW WITH ROASTED SQUASH
SERVES 6 - vegan, gluten free (option)
1 cup pecans
1 tablespoon coconut oil*
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups sourdough bread, cubed (gluten-free if desired)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon salt + 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Easy Lemon Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb delicata squash
2 teaspoons coconut oil (or sub olive oil)
1/4 teaspoon salt + 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 small heads of lacinato/dino kale
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Prepare the delicata squash by slicing off the tough ends. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds. Slice the squash into half moon shapes, 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick. Drizzle 2 teaspoons coconut oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and fork tender. Flip half way for even browning.
For the glazed pecans, heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Melt coconut oil, then add maple syrup, whisking to combine. Bring the mixture to a gentle bubble. Once bubbles appear, remove pan from head. Add pecans and stir thoroughly to coat. Transfer glazed pecans to lined baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until fragrant. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Remove from oven, sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Lift the parchment paper (& pecans) off the sheet, and place the parchment on top of a heat proof plate or container. Transfer to a the fridge (uncovered) to allow the pecans to cool fully.
Re-line the baking sheet with a fresh sheet of parchment paper. Add cubed bread to the baking sheet, drizzle bread with olive oil, and sprinkle on granulated garlic, onion powder, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown.
Prepare the kale by cutting away and removing the tough stems in the center. Slice the leaves into thin, bite sized pieces. Rinse and spin kale in a salad spinner to dry thoroughly. Add sliced kale to a large bowl.
Whisk together dressing ingredients (red wine vinegar, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, maple syrup, dijon mustard, salt and black pepper). Pour dressing over top of kale and use your hands (or a spoon) to ensure the dressing is well incorporated into the kale. Let sit for a at least 5-10 minutes. Add dried cranberries, candied pecans, roasted squash and homemade croutons. Toss and serve.
-*We use refined (deoderized) coconut oil so that there’s no coconut flavor. Alternatively you can use grapeseed oil, or if not vegan, butter works too.