Say what you will about kale—I thought for sure that interest in kale would have peaked in 2013—but there is no denying that its sturdy leaves are made for hearty fall salads.
A while ago, I interviewed Cortney Burns, the co-chef at Bar Tartine in San Francisco, for a freelance piece. We ended up dissecting the restaurant’s perennially popular kale salad, which frames mildly bitter leaves with sunflower tahini, yogurt, yogurt powder, and rye bread (For specifics, look up the recipe in the Bar Tartine cookbook.) The salad is one of the few dishes that rarely leaves the menu, but Cortney said it would be off in a second if she or co-chef Nick Balla were tired of it.
“Our guests love it, but we also like to eat the kale salad,” she said. So the kale salad trend—like the burrata trend and the pork belly trend before it—is likely here to stay.
Delicata Squash and Kale Salad
Serves 2 to 4
I keep a bottle of pomegranate molasses in my refrigerator. It keeps forever and its sweet-tart flavor has an uncanny ability to balance vinaigrettes and sauces. But it is silly to buy it only for making the vinaigrette for this salad. A workaround is to use 1/2 teaspoon or so of honey in place of the pomegranate syrup and 1/2 teaspoon more vinegar. If pomegranates are unavailable, coarsely chop a handful of golden raisins and soak them in a solution of half red wine vinegar and half water at room temperature for a half hour or so. Drain before using.
- 2 handfuls of hazelnuts
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- 1 small delicata squash (about 12 ounces)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon finely diced shallot
- Pinch of cayenne (optional)
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
- 12 ounces lacinato kale (about 2 bunches)
- 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
Heat the oven to 325°F. Spread the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant and light brown in the center, about 15 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 400°F.
Pour the nuts into a small bowl. When cool enough to handle (but still warm), crush the nuts so that some pieces break in half or into quarters. (Or wrap the nuts in a kitchen towel and roll a rolling pin over them.) Mix in a splash of olive oil and a good pinch of salt.
While the nuts toast, prepare the squash. Cut it lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Slice the squash into half rings no more than 1/4-inch thick. It tends to be easier to slice through the flesh side of the squash than the skin side.
Put the squash slices on the same baking sheet that was used for the hazelnuts and toss with 1 tablespoon oil, a pinch or two of salt, and a grinding of pepper. Arrange the squash slices so they don’t overlap and bake until the bottoms are golden and caramelized in parts, about 17 minutes. Don’t cook them so long that they become too soft to hold their shape in the salad. (You can do this a day in advance and bring the squash to room temperature before serving.)
While the squash roasts, prepare the vinaigrette and kale. In a small bowl, add the shallots and vinegar. Stir in the pomegranate molasses. (When I have time, I like to let the shallots sit in the vinegar for a bit before adding the oil to mellow their flavor.) Season with a pinch of cayenne and salt, then stir in 1 tablespoon oil.
For the kale, give the leaves a good wash, then, using your hands, strip the leaves from the ribs. Discard the ribs. (If the ribs are thin, you may want to keep them in place for more yield.) Tear the leaves into 2-inch pieces.
Put the kale in a large pot or Dutch oven and add 1 tablespoon oil and a good pinch of salt. (The leaves should still have some water clinging to them, which will help them wilt. If they are dry, add a tablespoon or so of water to the pot.) Heat the pot over medium-high heat and cook, giving the kale a stir or two, until it just begins to wilt, about 1 minute. (This can be done in advance; just transfer the kale to a mixing bowl once wilted to prevent it from overcooking.)
Pour in the vinaigrette and add the hazelnuts, squash, and pomegranate. Toss to coat, then taste, adding more salt and pepper if desired.