Harvest Kale and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Creamy Maple-Cider Dressing

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Here’s what I know about kale. It is hardy. It stands up to a greater breadth and depth of temperature, seasons and wind than any other vegetable in our garden. It thrives far longer (it continued to spill its harvest into the frigid mornings of mid-November.) It nourishes and satiates. It gives and weathers and feeds. And it needs little sustenance in return. Talk about a superfood with super powers! What I also know about kale is that I’ve been eating it for FAR longer than it has been basking in the glowing light of superfood status. My grandmother, aunts and mom have been growing and using kale in their kitchens for as long as I can remember. And while I don’t think they ever imagined its dominance as the queen of greens, they certainly knew its value. Easy to grow. Easy to cook. Easy to transform.

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Onto this glowing recipe. Kale salad is nothing new. I’ve been making versions and incarnations of it for many years. Sometimes as the star player and sometimes as a companion to other greens. This salad though is all about the kale. It is home-grown kale paired with classic autumn ingredients to create a hearty, addictive and delicious appetizer or meal. I do highly recommend massaging the kale for this dish. Yup, that sounds ridiculous, I know. But really, it makes a difference. If you’ve ever had dry, woody kale in your salad you will appreciate this step. And doesn’t this hard working produce staple deserve a little R and R?? You’re welcome kale.

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The first few times I made this recipe I used delicata squash which works beautifully. But as luck would have  it, delicata was nowhere to be found on my grocery expedition this time. So butternut squash played the perfect understudy. And really any squash or pumpkin would do. I do love serving this salad with the squash still warm from the oven. The warmth is a great foil for the kale and sets off the zingy dressing nicely, but room temperature is just fine. Straight from the fridge the next day works too. And yes, this salad is the kind you can eat as leftovers, nothing gets soggy!

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I usually serve all the ingredients layered on a large platter or wide, shallow bowl with the dressing on the side so people can drizzle on as much as they want but feel free to do the drizzling yourself. Or just mix all the salad ingredients with the dressing. This recipe  might make more dressing than you will need but that’s not a bad  thing. It’s perfect on other greens or roasted veggies.

A hearty, warm, vibrant salad to nourish and chase away the impending winter blahs. Oh, I should say this recipe makes a pretty hefty  party sized salad. So you can always halve the quantities to make a smaller amount. But like I said, you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of days with nothing to worry about. And then change it up with some cooked quinoa or millet, or alongside a spicy soup or stew.

Harvest Kale and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad + Creamy Maple-Cider Dressing

vegan, soy-free, gluten-free

Makes a party sized salad

Prep Time 20 minutes

Cook Time 35-40 minutes

Ingredients for the salad:

2 bunches of kale, washed, ribs removed, chopped into bite sized pieces (about 12 cups)

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 8 cups)

2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided

1  Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1.5 Tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds

3/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped

1 batch of creamy maple-cider dressing

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450˚F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl drizzle the kale with one tablespoon of olive oil and the apple cider vinegar. Gently squeeze and massage the kale until thoroughly coated with the oil and vinegar. Set aside.
  3. Place the squash on the baking sheet, drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil, all  of the maple syrup, salt, pepper, cinnamon and cloves, and toss to combine. Arrange in a single layer and roast for about 35-40 minutes, flipping once halfway through cooking time. Squash should be cooked through and browned around the edges.
  4. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add pumpkin seeds and toast until starting to turn golden and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Stir frequently so that they don’t  burn. Transfer onto a plate and let cool.
  5. To assemble the salad, place the massaged kale onto a platter or bowl, top with toasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and roasted squash. Drizzle or toss with about 1/2-3/4 of the dressing and serve with extra dressing on the side.

Ingredients for the dressing:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

2 Tablespoons tahini

1 clove of garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

6-8 Tablespoons water

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients and 6 tablespoons of the water in a blender and  blend on high until emulsified. Add extra water as needed to achieve a pourable consistency.

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Quick and Delish Summer Dish

Hello dear readers. It’s been a while. Too long. But here I am again, for better or worse!

I spent this beautiful, perfect summer day waiting around for the internet guy to finally reconnect me to civilization. He showed up 15 minutes before the 4 hour window they gave me as my appointment time was up. Anyone else think this practice is ludicrous?? Hey, I’m coming over for dinner. When? Oh, I don’t know, sometime between 4 and 8. Anyway. I’m almost over it.

So I did what any other food lover would do with spare time. I cooked. Now, I’m not the type of person that is particularly averse to cooking in any sorts of weather, but it does occur to me that most people don’t want to spend oodles of time in the kitchen when the sun is blazing outside. And so here is a quick little number I pulled together in about 20min or so with ingredients I had on hand. When I execute these spontaneous acts of cookery, I like to think in groups. Nutrient groups, food groups, deliciousness groups, whatever you want to call it. Here is what I aim to include in a nourishing dish I concot on the fly:

Veg – anything goes! the possibilities are essentially limitless
Whole grain – my faves are quinoa, millet, rice, gluten-free pasta, sweet or white potato (while not technically a grain I throw the potato in this category for it’s starchy nature)
Protein – beans, lentils, chickpeas, tempeh, nuts, seeds

Pick something from each group, add the magic of flavour (spices, herbs, tamari, miso, citrus juice and zest, oils, vinegars, broth, condiments…I could go on). And there you have it.

Millet, Greens and Legumes in Miso Sauce

1/2-1 cup dry millet (see cooking instructions here)

a whole whack of kale, washed, large stems removed, chopped in bite-sizeish pieces (the more the better, this green cooks down A LOT)

1 cup frozen peas

1-2 cups beans of your choosing (I used leftover chickpeas and broad beans that I had in freezer, you can use canned or store-bought frozen)

For sauce: whisk together 2 Tbsp of miso paste (I used the white variety), 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tsp sesame oil, 2 tsp maple syrup, a dash or two of hot pepper sauce of you choose, and about 2-3 Tbsp of water

Heat a teaspoon or two of sesame oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat, add kale and a few splashes of water and let it hang out until wilted and getting tender (a few minutes). Use tongs to move it about. Add frozen peas and beans, cook until defrosted. Add sauce and let it all come together for a minute or two. Add millet (I used 1/2-2/3 of the amount that 1 cup of dry millet cooked up…will use leftovers in salads, soups or breakfast porridge). Stir it all together, the millet will absorb the delicious sauce.

Enjoy! Preferably with a cold beer.

Happy lazy summer days,
ilona

PS No picture. The beer made me sleepy.

Back In The Game (plus recipe for Kale and Bean Soup)

Well, I am FINALLY feeling like myself again. I can safely say my body is virus-free. Hallelujah.

Can’t say I was feeling much food inspiration over the last little while. Although I’m not of the lose-all-your-appetite-while-sick sort (and damn it I do envy the people who get blessed with this silver lining of illness), my food selection was completely lack luster and I don’t think I attempted much beside boiling water and toasting bread in the kitchen, oh and heating up soup from a carton.

I managed to stay on the vegan bandwagon for two weeks now, viral attack and all. I have to say though, while I certainly don’t feel deprived and I can’t say I’ve even toed the precipice of starvation at any point, I have had some niggling thoughts about sneaking a few bites of cheese. Or milk chocolate (which is strange as I prefer dark varieties typically). I even had a dream where I pigged out on a milk-laden chocolate bar and woke up with residual feelings of guilt that the dream embedded. But honestly, all this has been minor.

In fact, beyond the illness stage, I continue feeling inspired and excited by all the vegan foods and recipes I keep coming across. As my sickness waned towards the end of the week, I found myself enveloped by a plethora of food experiences this weekend.

First off, my brother bought a juicer. Super exciting! We juiced the second the beast came out of the box. So far a winning combo has been apples, kale and ginger  Delish. I came up with a concoction that echoed the flavours of carrot cake: tons of carrots, apples, a bit of ginger and a few shakes of cinnamon and cloves. Yum! And of course there’s been a few underwhelming, and perhaps down right awful, results too. Will keep you updated on our juicer developments!

On Saturday night I made the pilgrimage to downtown Toronto for some of my favourite Thai food at Salad King. I can’t comment on the authenticity of the grub but I have been eating here since my Ryerson University under-grad days. I even remember what my first dish was, and this was back in 2002! Emerald curry, by the way. The location has moved (a few meters from the original) but the crazy atmosphere, affordable prices and consistently amazing dishes have remained. Even the mild to 20 chilies heat scale has not changed a bit. I am a 5 chilies type of gal…hey, some like it hot 🙂

I dined on my beloved Bangkok Stir Fry (veganized by omitting the egg) and my dining partner-in-crime chose the Hot Thai Noodles with a very non-veg chicken and shrimp option. We stuffed ourselves silly and walked away wishing for a location closer to home. Sigh.

My good food fortune continued into Sunday as we gathered at my parents place for dinner. My mom obliged our veggie ways and cooked up an amazing vegan kale and bean soup. Sooooo good!

Kale and Bean Soup 1

 Kale and Bean Soup

This is a delicious soup to serve on a chilly day. Much goodness is to be found in this gem of a dish.

Adapted from: The Vegetarian Collection by Alison Key and The Canadian Living Kitchen

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste (1/2-1 tsp of each)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth, homemade or store bought
  • 4 cups of water
  • 4 small white potatoes, diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, diced
  • 1 can (395ml, 140z) cannelini beans, rinsed and drained, used Eden Garden brand
  • 2 cans (395ml, 14oz each) navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 bunches of kale, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • juice of one lemon

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, coriander  cumin, salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, until onion is soft and translucent.

Add broth, water, white and sweet potato and all the beans, bring to a boil then simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender (about 15-20 minutes).

Meanwhile put kale into a pot of boiling water and boil for about 10 minutes until softened. Drain and add to the soup along with the parsley. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then finish off with the lemon juice.

Serve as is or accompanied by whole grain bread, pita or a cooked grain (rice, buckwheat, quinoa or the like). Enjoy piping hot.

Kale and Bean Soup 2

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 My mom also surprised us by baking vegan chocolate chip cookies. No milk or eggs, and incidentally no wheat, but full of chocolatey goodness. Best served with beverage of choice for dunking. Recipe was from good old reliable Martha Stewart.

Vegan CC Cookies 2

Vegan CC Cookies 1

Way to go mama! First one to experiment with vegan baking. But that’s not shocking, baking is in her blood.

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I wrapped up my Sunday evening by prepping for the work week. Cooked up a one skillet meal using ingredients already in my fridge and pantry for lunches and dinners; will post the recipe this week. Main ingredients were fennel bulb, green peas, quinoa and Tofurky sausage. Don’t mock me, I love them.

And I whipped up a batch of hummus. I don’t really use a precise recipe, more so a guideline I suppose. But I will try to account for the proportions next time I make it so I can share the magic that a few simple kitchen staples can create: chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and good-quality olive oil. That’s all.

Happy February everyone!

ilona