Kale can be absolutely delicious when bought at the right time, used quickly, paired with the right ingredients, and treated right. It is gorgeous in this Wilted Kale Salad with Acorn Squash and Warm Cranberry Vinaigrette.
The kale in this salad is nearly raw, just softened slightly in a warm dressing made from quickly sauteing Acorn Squash. The caramelized oil left behind is sweet with no added sugars and becomes the base for the dressing along with a little olive oil and vinegar.
About Wilted Kale Salad with Acorn Squash and Warm Cranberry Vinaigrette:
That dressing is really the star of the show, in my opinion. It’works so beautifully with the quinoa, sets off the caramelized acorn squash, which is almost sweet and tames down the kale in the salad. A few cranberries add chew and a nut or seed or your choice adds just the right amount of crunch. I love pepitas, but sunflower seeds or pecans or another nut of choice will be beautiful, too.
Although the flavors read “fall” this salad has become somewhat of a staple in my home from fall through late spring; kale is in season here in the fall and spring, but widely available in the store year-round. The sturdy squashes like acorn may be a fall staple, but they are long-lasting, inexpensive, healthy and vegetables like this can help bridge the gap between the winter and spring vegetables.
Let’s face it, after a long winter we’re all eager to see strawberries, artichokes, asparagus; much of the country, though, in April, is still a long ways away from having those locally, and the ones in the store are still expensive. You can’t go wrong, though, with a bright, vibrant and hearty bowl like this one full of Kale, Acorn Squash and Quinoa on a cold, dreary day.
Making Wilted Kale Salad with Acorn Squash and Warm Cranberry Vinaigrette:
You’ll want to watch the acorn squash carefully as you cook it. You’re looking for it be browned and caramelized and it’s amazing that way; almost sweet and the browning gives it a bit of character. Be careful not to scorch it, though, because that’s what makes the dressing. Add extra oil if needed.
Feel free to adjust the amounts in the dressing or even add a bit of honey. I kind of make this rather loosely, sometimes, based more on whim than actual, precise measurements. Taste it and adjust the amount of vinegar and/or honey.
If you’d like a few hints on cooking the Quinoa, see my post on Light & Fluffy Quinoa. (It’s been recently updated to add Instant Pot directions, too.) I like to maximize my time whenever I make a long cooking grain like Quinoa and make extra, bag it, tag it and toss it in the freezer. It makes a salad like this (or another type of meal that uses Quinoa) super fast to make and in reach even on a busy weeknight.
Saving Money on Wilted Kale Salad with Acorn Squash and Warm Cranberry Vinaigrette:
Although not inexpensive to make, this salad is really a meal in itself. Substantial. Life-Giving. Brown rice or another grain would certainly be a bit more cost-conscious, but as it is, the Quinoa helps to stand in for the protein in the meal. I won’t begrudge its cost, here.
There is no doubt about it, Quinoa is a pricey ingredient. This salad would also be great with a beautifully cooked brown rice instead. If you use quinoa often, it pays to know where it costs less; compare the health food store, any grocery stores you shop at and at your own store, check hte healthy organic aisle, the bulk aisle and the rice & bean aisle. The prices can vary wildly.
Acorn squash, in my mind, is vastly underutilized, the neglected stepchild of the squash; butternut seems to always get more attention, but butternut is wonderful in this dish, too. Buy whichever is more cost-effective to maximize your savings. To learn more about Acorn Squash, see what the World’s Healthiest Foods has to say about this and other colorful squashes.
As far as the Kale goes, I have a whole write up on kale, and that includes how to buy it at the best price as well as nutritional and other information. See What to Know About Kale.Print
Wilted Kale Salad with Acorn Squash and Warm Cranberry Vinaigrette
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Salads
- Cuisine: American
- 1/2 to 1 acorn squash, cut in half, seeded and sliced thinly into semi-circles (about 3/8ths of an inch)
- 3 tablespoon olive oil, divided into 1 tablespoon for the squash and the rest for the dressing
- 1 tablespoon Sherry
- 2 tablespoons Vinegar (your choice)
- 1/3 cup dried Cranberries (another dried fruit may be substituted)
- honey to taste
- 1 bunch of kale, tough ends removed and chopped into pieces
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup quinoa, cooked according to directions
- a few pumpkin seeds, pepitas or another nut – pecans are wonderful
In a large saute pan, add about a tablespoon of olive oil. When heated, add the squash, saute until golden brown and slightly caramelized. Remove and set aside. Take pan off heat and add Sherry and Vinegar, stirring. It will bubble and evaporate quickly, so right away, toss in the cranberries and additional olive oil. Taste and add a bit of honey, salt, and pepper if desired.
Add Kale and toss in the warm dressing with tongs, using the back of the tongs to press lightly against the kale, slightly bruising it. Leave it in the pan for just a quick minute or two; the goal isn’t to cook it but just slightly tenderize it.
Serve in a shallow salad bowl, Quinoa on the bottom, topped with the kale, and the squash to the side. Top with a few pumpkin seeds or nuts of your choice. Drizzle any remaining dressing and cranberries in the pan over the top.
Keywords: Dried Fruit, Kale, Nuts and Seeds, Quinoa, Salad, Salad Dressings, Squash