Can’t you sometimes just tell from reading a recipe or looking at a picture that it will be good? That’s what happened when I read the recipe for this colorful, vegan winter salad. Earthy kale, sweet squash and juicy oranges seemed like a scrumptious combination of flavors, textures and colors. I could hardly wait to gather the ingredients and make and taste this salad.
My husband bought a really sweet kabocha squash. And best of all, he was willing to peel it. (Peeling kabocha squash takes patience and a sturdy and sharp vegetable peeler.) Tuscan Kale Kabocha Squash & Orange Salad is a winner. These bold flavored winter vegetables make a hardy, flavorful and satisfying meal on its own or as a side salad.
Kale! Kale! Kale! Kale! Lovely Kale!
Kale has been enjoying its moment in the sun for a number of years now. Who would have predicted this would happen to this decorative green-leafed superfood? Quite the journey from being the throwaway greens in buffet displays to becoming a compulsory menu item in the form of a raw kale salad.
Raw kale has been shown to be nutritionally superior in many of its nutrients to cooked kale. In salads, though, it can be a tough chew. That’s why many recipes recommend “massaging” every leaf with olive or avocado oil until they soften.
A few more tips for enjoying raw kale.
- Use Tuscan (aka lacinato or dinosaur) kale instead of the more common curly kale. Tuscan kale’s leaves are sweeter and tenderer from the get go.
- Cut the ribs out of the leaves. The thinly sliced ribs are great cooked, not so much raw.
- Chiffonade (thinly slice) the leaves into ¼ to ½ inch ribbons.
Cara Cara Oranges
Unique Cara Cara oranges have orangey-pink flesh (though some call it red) and a sweet, complex taste. Seedless Cara Caras are a fresh and juicy complement to the other major players in today’s salad.
Low-acid Cara Caras have just begun appearing in some of our local markets and will continue to do so until spring. In about another month, similarly luscious blood oranges with their deep, deep crimson flesh and sweet taste become available. Using them alone or along with Cara Caras makes Tuscan Kale Kabocha Squash & Orange Salad even more mouthwatering and vibrant.
Peeling an orange to expose its flesh
- Remove a small slice from each end of the orange to reveal the flesh.
- With a serrated knife, use a sawing motion to remove both the pith and peel from the orange.
- Cut around the orange leaving it nicely rounded.
- Work over a bowl to capture the juice.
- Squeeze the peel over the same bowl to save its juice as well.
Bold flavored winter vegetables make this a hardy, flavorful and satisfying side salad or meal on its own. Just-roasted squash wilts and tenderizes the kale so it loses its chewiness.
It’s worth searching out richly colored, juicy, sweet and low acid Cara Cara or Blood Oranges. They make this salad even more vibrant and delicious.
Thank you Chef Robert Danhi for inspiring this lightly adapted recipe for Tuscan Kale Kabocha Squash & Orange Salad.
Serves 6 as an entrée,10 as a side salad Printer-Friendly Recipe
Start to Finish 1 hour
6 cups Kabocha squash (or butternut or buttercup squash), peeled, seeded and cut into ¾ inch chunks (about 1¾-2 pounds peeled squash)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
Dozen twists freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 bunch Tuscan Kale, stemmed and leaves sliced into ¼ inch thin strips, 3-4 cups
3-4 Cara Cara or Blood Oranges, peeled, halved vertically, cut into ¼ inch thick half moons, 2 cups
½ cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted OR ¼ cup quartered, toasted walnuts
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss the squash with the thyme, garlic, pepper, salt, and two tablespoons of the olive oil.
- Roast the squash 20 minutes. Turn the squash cubes over and roast for another 10 minutes or more until tender.
- Place the kale ribbons in a large bowl. Top with the hot squash. Let sit for 5 minutes. The heat of the squash wilts and tenderizes the kale.
- Add the remaining two tablespoons olive oil, the oranges and any extra juice, and the parsley. Gently toss together. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer to a serving platter or bowl. Sprinkle with the pine nuts or walnuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.