Is there really anything better than a bright and hearty fall salad to serve alongside a heavier holiday spread?
I mean look at those colors! You know you’re putting something amazing into your body.
Winter squash is loaded with carotenoids — one of them being betacarotene — which convert to vitamin A in the body and helps with cellular repair and a healthy immune system. It’s also packed with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, and copper.
Antioxidants from the pomegranate seeds help combat all of the holiday stress by naturally lowering blood pressure and fighting inflammation. They’re also packed vitamin C which helps keep the immune system strong.
And of course, kale — my favorite leafy green and one of my top 5 vegetables. It’s a powerhouse of folate, vitamins A, C, and K, as well as phosphorous, calcium, potassium, and zinc. It’s called a superfood for a reason and has too many health benefits to name — immune support, brain + heart health, and reduced cancer risk.
This salad is easily adaptable — and I bet you have most of the ingredients on hand already to make your own delicious version.
Here, I roasted kabocha squash until sweet and tender then tossed it into a massaged kale salad with toasted hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds. But you could easily swap out the squash and switch up the nuts + fruit to whatever you have on hand What’s great is that dressing is so universal it will work with any combination.
A few other versions to try:
Butternut squash + Pistachios + Apple
Acorn squash + Pecans + Dried Cranberries
Sweet potato + Walnuts + Grapes
And if you want to make this salad into a full meal, try adding chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, wild rice, or other grain / legume to round it out.
Winter Squash Salad with Massaged Kale, Toasted Hazelnuts, and Pomegranate
1 small kabocha squash, halved, seeds removed, and cut into 1-inch wedges
1 Tbs. olive oil
fine sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup raw hazelnuts
1 large head lacinato kale, ribs removed and finely chopped
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup parsley and/or mint, finely chopped (optional)
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. raw apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. maple syrup
Fine sea salt + black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two sheet trays with parchment paper.
Toss cut squash with olive oil and a good pinch of salt + black pepper. Roast for 30-35 minutes, flipping once, until golden brown and tender. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
While the squash roasts, toast the hazelnuts — watching closely — for 5-8 minutes until fragrant. It can be hard to tell when the nuts are ready with the skins, so I always error on the side of caution. Remove nuts from oven and wrap in a dish towel while still warm. Rub the towel together until most of the skins have peeled off, then pick out the skinless nuts and coarsely chop.
Next, make the dressing by whisking together the apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, and a pinch each salt and black pepper. Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk until fulling emulsified.
In a large bowl, toss the kale with half of the salad dressing. Then, using your hands — massage the kale for 30-60 seconds until bright green and starting to soften. Toss in herbs, if using.
To plate: Layer half the kale salad onto the bottom of a serving platter, then top with half of the squash wedges. Add remaining kale and tuck in the rest of the squash. Drizzle with additional salad dressing, then top with toasted hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds.
Make it ahead: The day before, toast the hazelnuts, roast the squash, wash/chop/dry the kale, and make the dressing. Then, an hour or so before you’d like to serve — bring the squash to room temperature and massage the kale. Then assemble the salad before serving. It’s hearty enough to hold in the fridge for a few hours if needed.