When I was invited to a hog roast last weekend, my first thought was to bring a salad. There was going to be a lot of pork on offer, so something green and leafy would at least be a good contrast. This hog roast was a celebration of local food with the hog itself coming from a nearby farm. I had just received my first butternut squash of the season from my CSA, and I found a couple of varieties of kale and red onions at the farmers’ market the morning of the party. And, I had ideas about raw kale. The week before, I attended a Health Starts Here cooking class at Whole Foods, and I posted a few photos from the class on Facebook. One of the dishes demonstrated was a raw kale salad, and the cut leaves were tenderized and wilted by squeezing the dressing into them by hand. I went with different flavors for my salad, but that technique made all the difference. This was something I made up as I went along without really measuring, but I’ll do my best to list approximate quantities in a recipe below.
I used dinosaur kale, but any variety would have been great. I cut the thick parts of the ribs from the leaves and then chopped the leaves into little ribbons. The ribboned leaves were washed and spun dry in a salad spinner, and then they went into a big bowl with finely chopped red onion. I poured some aged balsamic vinegar over the kale and reached in to scrunch away. You want to work the vinegar into the leaves, and the squeezing and scrunching will soften the kale. For the pecans, I imagined a little spice on them would add a faint bit of heat and interest to the salad. I whisked some chimayo chile powder, salt, and sugar into an egg white and then tossed the pecans in that mixture. Once well coated, they were toasted in the oven for about 20 minutes. The pecans and cubes of butternut squash and a small splash of olive oil were tossed with the kale to complete the salad.
The pig was the star of the night. When it was brought in for carving, it had everyone’s attention. I even tasted a piece of cheek and a bite of belly. It was a fine roasted hog, and the salad was indeed a good side dish. The sweet, spicy, and savory items balanced the bitter greens, and the leaves were slightly wilted with a little crispness intact. I’ve already decided I’m making this salad again for Thanksgiving and probably a few times between now and then.
Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Spiced Pecans
a lisa is cooking original
1 small butternut squash
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups pecans
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon chimayo chile powder or cayenne to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 bunches kale
1 small red onion, finely diced
2-4 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar (I used 18 year aged from Con'Olio.)
salt and pepper to taste
*note: the size of a bunch of kale will vary, so taste as you go and adjust as needed when adding the vinegar and olive oil to the salad.
-Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the squash, cut in half and remove seeds. Cut squash into 3/4-inch cubes. On a large baking sheet, toss cubed squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes or until squash is tender and allow to cool. The squash should be tender but not mushy. It should hold it's shape when tossed in the salad but still be cooked through. (The squash can be roasted a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator.)
-In a large mixing bowl, whisk one egg white with chimayo chile powder, sugar, and a good pinch of salt. Whisk just until the egg white is foamy. Toss the pecans in the egg white mixture and stir to coat the pecans well. Using your hands, place pecans on a parchment-lined baking sheet leaving excess egg white in the mixing bowl. Toast in the 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes checking from time to time to be sure the pecans are not getting too brown. (The pecans can be toasted a day or two in advance and stored in an airtight container.)
-Cut thick parts of ribs from leaves of kale. Then, cut leaves in half lenghthwise and then into ribbons crosswise. Soak cut leaves in a large bowl of water. Swish to remove grit, and then allow grit to fall to bottom of bowl. Pick leaves up out of water and place in basket of a salad spinner and spin dry. Placed washed leaves in a large mixing bowl. Add finely diced red onion. Pour two tablespooons aged balsamic over kale and onion and squeeze and scrunch the leaves with your hands. You want to tenderize the kale and work the vinegar into the leaves.
-Add roasted squash cubes, toasted pecans, two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste, and carefully toss to combine so squash cubes remain whole. The oil used in roasting the squash along with the pecans add richness to the salad, so nut much additional olive oil is needed. I used about two tablespoons, but taste as you add.