This Wilted Kale Salad with Warm Mustard Shallot Vinaigrette and Spicy Butternut Squash Croutons is winter’s answer to a green salad! Loaded with nutrients and pops of color and SO much taste it’s dreamy as a side or plop your favorite protein on top and make it a meal. The squash croutons? Sure I know they aren’t croutons, but with a little finesse we get a subtle crisp to them that are better than any boring ‘ol bread crouton.
It’s winter and salads often become a distant memory for many. I get it, cold, crispy raw salads just aren’t that appealing to me either, when there’s a chill in the air. I crave warming, comforting and cozy. But, I have made a commitment to my daily #BFS (Big F&%$ing Salad). I find this practice is a great way to ensure I get a big blast of daily nutrients, no matter what!
This is a salad for the winter. With kale as the shining star, this is the perfect way to get in those nutrient-rich greens in the cooler months. Kale is exploding with disease-fighting phytochemicals and it’s one of my most favorite whole-food sources of cognition-boosting nutrition. Here’s what Max Lugavere has to say about kale:
Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach are a top source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids which have been the focus of numerous recent studies.
In volunteers, supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin led to faster processing speed. 1http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0108178 This effect was significant “even when testing young, healthy individuals who tend to be at peak efficiency,” wrote study authors.
In another study, human subjects with higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin did better on a test of working memory, while their brains seemed to be working more efficiently when observed under fMRI.2https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-the-international-neuropsychological-society/article/relationship-of-lutein-and-zeaxanthin-levels-to-neurocognitive-functioning-an-fmri-study-of-older-adults/128FA33729CB102A1DC5ACAAFF7D972D
Finally, lutein (found in egg yolks, spinach and kale) was associated with greater crystalized intelligence—the ability to use learned knowledge and experience—in older adults. 3http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnagi.2016.00297/full
I really like butternut squash as an additional option to this salad for a complex carbohydrate and high anti-oxidant food. It’s a great source of Vitamin A, carrying enough in just one serving to cover your entire day. A fat soluable nutrient, the fatused to cook the squash, along with in the Warm Mustard Shallot Vinaigrette and on the kale, acts as a cofactor to the Vitamin A to allow us to best assimilate it. It also carries an impressive amount of Vitamin C which along with A is great for boosting immune function.
Finally, the salad dressing feels a little bit like a show off. Trying to steal the limelight from the nutritional superstars. And admittedly, it very well could. The Warm Mustard Shallot Vinaigrette is like the goodnight kiss at the end of an amazing first date! If you know what’s good for you and you want a little tongue, you’ll opt for the bacon grease, ya feel me? (Too much? I may have crossed some unspoken line here. oh well. #bacon)
If you are serving this as a side to a killer, well-sourced protein, RAD! If not, make this the main by topping with your favorite protein, chicken, fish or seafood, maybe a pork chop situation, to make it fast and easy, try some canned salmon or tuna or just a few hard boiled eggs.
- 1½ cups cubed butternut squash, ½-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot starch
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- pinch of cayenne or ground chipotle
- sea salt, to taste
- coconut oil, ghee, tallow, lard
- 2 tablespoons Terra Delyssa Organic Olive Oil, ghee or bacon grease
- 3-4 bunches kale, stems removed and leaves roughly torn
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup Terra Delyssa Organic Olive Oilor bacon grease,
- 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup*
- 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic or apple cider vinegar
- Making the Butternut Squash Croutons. Fill a medium sized pot with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Have a large bowl with ice cold water and ice cubes set up for an ice bath, nearby. Add the squash to the boiling water and allow to boil for 3-4 minutes, to soften slightly. Immediately place into the ice bath to stop the cooking and only allow to stay there for 1-2 minutes (you only want to stop them from cooking further, you don't want them waterlogged). Remove and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels, blot with additional paper towels to get them super dry. Add the squash to a bowl and toss with arrowroot starch, garlic powder and sea salt.
- Heat 1-inch of oil of your choice over medium-high high in a small pan. Once the oil it hot, working in batches add the squash to the oil, tossing it gently as it cooks. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes, until the outside is crispy and the squash is tender, but not mushy. Add to a paper towel lined plate and continue frying the rest. Season with sea salt and a pinch or two of cayenne or ground chipotle. Set aside.
- Wilt the Kale. Add 2 tablespoons of oil of your choice to a large pot and add the garlic. Immediately toss in ¼ to ⅓ of the kale and stir until it starts to wilt. Continue with the remaining kale, as necessary. Cover and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Make the Warm Mustard Shallot Vinaigrettte. In a skillet, heat the olive oil (or bacon grease) over a medium heat. Add the sliced shallots and stir often as they cook, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the honey, mustard and sea salt and cook until golden brown, another 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar.
- Add the kale and butternut squash croutons to a serving plate or bowl. Pour the warm dressing over the salad and toss well to coat. Serve warm.
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