I’ve done it again. Overscheduled should be my middle name. In an effort to corral all my lists together, I decided that I needed to work more efficiently and call upon the kindness of friends. With 12 gingerbread houses looming on my horizon, I needed to make 18 batches of gingerbread pronto. Listening to my home KitchenAid wheeze and cough on a single batch, I decided to call my friend Alekka and use the giant Hobart mixer in her shop. Two big batches and 20 minutes later, I was done. 18 nice, tidy, saran wrapped packages carefully placed in a large box. The trade-off? Lunch. Alekka wanted, of all things, lentil salad. Fair enough. Except I didn’t make her lentil salad. I brought her kale and wheatberry salads instead.
I’ve been doing this Unprocessed October thing for a week now with moderate success. It’s reminded me, yet again, that I am a stress eater. I know this, I just tend to ignore it a great majority of the time. When you’re about to hyperventilate under your desk, rationale thought isn’t a priority. Last week, even though I really wanted to throw in the towel and hit the drive-thru for a spicy chicken sandwich, I went home and opened the fridge. Staring at the large bunch of kale harvested from my garden plot, I decided to try a raw salad. Not my favorite use of a beloved green but I was willing to give it a try. It sounded healthy, energizing and if there was anything I needed at that moment, it was energy.
Kale salads are the latest darling in the food world, what people decided to make after everyone else had beat them to a post about roasted kale chips. For some reason, I’ve always circled it cautiously, eyeing it suspiciously. Sautéed, steamed, stir-fried, you bet. But raw? I always felt like I’d eaten the bottom end of a burlap sack. Too hearty, too healthy, too green. Then I read something about massaging a rather acid-y vinaigrette into those greens; really working it in and letting those tougher bits tenderize and wilt a little. I’m listening.
Then I saw this post and threw caution to the wind. This recipe spoke to me; the lemon juice base, softened by a bit of parmesan with an added crunch from sautéed breadcrumbs. I had a butternut squash sitting forlornly on a windowsill and thought, rightly so, that it would add some needed color, sweetness and texture contrast. And it did. The salad was delicious and even better the next day after it had some time to sit. It’s fresh, bright and flavorful and it felt good.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: GREEN GOODNESS. Yes, this is one of those hippy, dippy, insanely healthy feeling kind of salads. But you know what? It’s damn good and strangely filling without feeling overly fibrous. When I was considering hyperventilating under my desk, I thought about taking that box of Cheez Its with me. Instead I took a few deep breaths and this salad. Who am I??
RAW KALE AND ROASTED SQUASH SALAD – Adapted loosely from a 101 Cookbooks recipe which was originally adapted from a Melissa Clark recipe
1 small butternut squash
2 slices stale hearty bread (country, ciabatta, etc.)
6 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 bunch kale
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
zest of 1 lemon (zest before juicing)
juice of 1 lemon
good pinch crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
- for the squash: Preheat oven to 400°F. Split the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out and discard the seeds.
- Rub lightly on all sides with olive oil and place on a parchment lined sheet pan, cut side down.
- Roast on the lowest rack for 45 minutes until tender but still a touch firm. Let cool.
- Once cool, remove the skin and dice into ½” pieces. You won’t need all of it.
- For the breadcrumbs: break the bread into several pieces and pulse in the food processor to coarse crumbs.
- In a sauté pan over medium, heat 3 Tablespoons of the olive oil.
- Add the breadcrumbs and sauté, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add half the garlic and a good pinch each of salt and pepper and stir until the garlic is fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and set aside until needed.
- For the kale: Pull off and discard the kale stems.
- Slice into thin ribbons and set aside. You should have about 4-5 cups.
- For the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes, pinch each of salt and pepper and the parmesan.
- In a large bowl, whisk in the remaining 3 Tablespoons olive oil until well blended.
- Add the sliced kale to the bowl and toss well to combine. This works best by hand where you can really rub the dressing into the kale ribbons.
- Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes to let the kale soften a bit.
- Add 1-2 cups roasted squash and toss gently to combine.
- Sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs on top and serve.