one bag of kale, part 1: autumn kale salad with butternut squash

The butternut squash with it’s coating of spices and oil before going into the oven

Kale, it’s everywhere, it’s added to every dish you can think of including sweet breakfast smoothies.  Get over it already.  Kale isn’t meant to be added to a smoothie.  Honestly, have you ever listened to someone go on and on and on as they list the ingredients in the 24 ounce smoothie they just whipped up at home?  Seems to me that if you are going to eat an apple, a banana, a tub of Greek yogurt, a scoop of peanut butter a handful of kale, a scoop of…and so on, you are probably slurping down way more than you really need and that could explain why you haven’t lost much weight.  Ranting a bit, aren’t I.  Well, can you blame me?  As a gardener and a trained chef, it irritates me to see something as nutritionally packed and tasty as kale is being so over used.

So let me start this all over again.  Kale is one of those plants that loves cold weather and is so easy to grow that it is almost impossible not to have a few plants in your garden.  As a matter of fact, kale is a plant that you can grow 3 out of 4 seasons simply by harvesting just the outer leaves and if it sends out a flower stalk, cut it out and add that to the pile of leaves you are going to cook!  One simple rule of thumb, kale should not be grown in the hotter months and for most of us, that means between May and August; not only will it bolt(go to seed) it will attract all sorts of undesirable insects to your garden.  To keep it interesting, search seed catalogs for the different varieties available; we generally grow 2 or 3 types in our garden for variety.

But what if you do not have a garden or do not want to grow your own kale?  Head to the grocery store and buy a bag of kale.  Most grocery stores offer large bags of cut cooking greens, usually kale or collard greens and they weigh a pound.  While most stores offer the traditional curly kale, some carry Tuscan kale in large bags too.

The bag is almost big enough to be a pillow and I can hear you now:  “that’s a lot of kale, I won’t be able to eat all of that!”  Well guess what?  You can eat all of that, you will not waste any of it and you will not get tired of eating it.  Why buy it in a bag instead of by the bunch even though it is a smaller amount?  Because the bag is cheaper, the kale is already cleaned and the larger, woody stems are removed making every bit in the bag usable.  This is the first of 4 posts on the blog showing you how to use the entire bag.

For the first recipe, I have decided to make a salad.  The only thing that gets cooked is the butternut squash and while the squash is in the oven, you can prep the rest of the recipe.  This salad tastes a lot better if it is allowed to sit for a few hours in the fridge and if you make it a day ahead, it will be just fine.  It actually holds up pretty well in the fridge for a couple days but it will not be as crunchy by the second day.

To get started, first divide the contents of the bag in two.  Place on half in a large mixing bowl and set it aside for the salad.  Take the remaining kale and divide it in half as well.  Place one half into the bag it came in and then divide the last portion in half again and bag each of these separately; one will be used in a hash recipe and one will be used in a soup recipe.  Store the other portions of kale in the fridge until you are ready to make the other recipes.

The recipe for the salad comes to me from a fellow blogger, Angela Roberts of The Spinach Tiger.  My husband came with me to a potluck and Angela made the salad for the party.  He liked it so much that he actually looked her recipe up and he has been using it ever since.  We both enjoy it and often use the recipe as a starting point.  For this version, I used a butternut squash instead of the sweet potatoes and I subbed dried apricots and smoked pecans for the dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds.

This is also one of those dishes that you can serve as a vegetarian entree or serve it on the side with grilled poultry or fish-you choose.  As a matter of fact, the recipe is so flexible that you can get creative with what you add to it.  You could easily swap out the kale for another green, arugula comes to mind, just be mindful that a softer green will not hold up as well as kale in the long run.

The addition of nuts adds protein so if you are keeping this vegetarian or vegan, feel free to add more than the recipe calls for.

Autumn Kale Salad with Butternut Squash
Adapted from The Spinach Tiger
Makes enough salad for 2 large entree sized portions or 4 side salads
8 ounces chopped kale, half of a bag
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Vinaigrette dressing, recipe follows
1/4 cup diced dried apricots
1/4 cup chopped smoked pecans
additional dried fruit and nuts for garnishing the salad if desired
Preheat the oven to 400.  Place the kale in a large bowl and set aside.  Toss the butternut squash with the olive oil, maple syrup, salt and the spices, place it on a baking tray and roast until soft, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let it cool.  While the squash cools, make the vinaigrette dressing.
To make the salad, add the squash, apricots, pecans and the vinaigrette to the kale in the bowl and toss to combine.  Place the salad in the fridge and let it sit for a few hours to soften.
Vinaigrette Dressing
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil
6 tablespoons olive oil (or all olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Place the vinegar, garlic, maple syrup and mustard into the canister of a blender.  Turn the machine on to a low speed and with it running, pour the oils in in a steady stream to emulsify.  Add the salt and pepper while it is still running.
One bag of kale recipes:
Potato-Kale Hash with Chickpeas

52 pies in 52 weeks; a round up of sorts

it has been nearly two years since i finished the 52 pies in 52 weeks challenge.  hard to believe-time flies!  even so, if you recall, i invited readers to join in and bake the pies with me and send photos of their pie so that i could post them.  very few people sent me photos and i am not sure that many people even baked pies.   so imagine my surprise when i received an email with a photo of a pie!

this is the maple-pecan butternut squash pie from week #10 as baked by aimee.  to see the full recipe, follow this link.  and remember, if you bake one, send me the photo-this is proof that i will post it!

maple-pecan pie with butternut squash, #10 of 52 pies in 52 weeks

as a pastry chef, it is always fun to take something considered savory and transform it into a dessert.  coming up with an original idea is often as easy as taking a slow walk through the produce aisle in the supermarket.  during the winter months, the selection of produce can be a bit boring because the variety is not always as abundant.  as i shopped for groceries last week, i started out in the produce section since it is right by the main entrance of the store and one of the  first things that caught my eye was a display of hard winter squashes; spaghetti, acorn-golden and green and butternut.  i like butternut squash and so does the gang at home and i serve it every now and then.  we generally like it baked with a bit of brown sugar, cinnamon and a little butter.  sort of like a dessert that you can eat first and not feel guilty about.  at that moment i wondered, would it make a nice pie?  a nice filling for a pecan pie?  what about a maple pecan pie…

pick a squash that weighs at least a pound-you will lose some of the weight to the skin but should have enough for the pie.  if you chose a larger one, that means the rest is a bonus and i suggest you add a little brown sugar, cinnamon and butter to it and eat it.  to prepare the squash, cut it in half and remove the seeds.  place the squash in an oven proof dish, put a small amount of water in the bottom of the dish, cover it with foil and bake at 350 until it is soft.  the time can vary due to the size and the one i chose weighed just over two pounds and took about an hour.  remove from the oven and scoop the flesh out with a spoon.  allow it to cool before using, you will need 1 1/3 cup for the recipe so anything extra is for snacking.  when it comes to maple syrup-purity matters.  pancake syrup is not maple syrup and it won’t give it the same flavor as pure maple syrup.  if you can find grade “b” syrup, it will offer a more intense flavor but grade “a” is fine and that is what i used-no time to make a trip to trader joe’s for grade b and i didn’t want to buy/spend for just a few ounces.

maple-pecan pie with a butternut squash filling
serves 8-10
something funny happened in the oven-the squash filling rose and the maple custard filling sank!

squash filling
1 (9″) prebaked deep dish pie crust-any kind you like, i used a tart dough recipe that has sugar in it but it browned too much so i recommend sticking to pie pastry.
1 1/3 cup baked squash flesh
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) heavy cream
place the squash, sugar, maple syrup and spices in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend.  process the mixture, scraping the bowl occasionally until it is completely and evenly pureed.  add the eggs one at a time and pulse to mix.  scape the bowl, add the cream and combine well.   pour the mixture into the prebaked pie shell and smooth the top.

maple-pecan topping
1 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup
preheat the oven to 350.  toast the pecans until fragrant, about 7 minutes.  in a mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar with the melted butter and the cinnamon.  whisk in the eggs, one at a time and then whisk in the maple syrup.  sprinkle the pecans evenly over the squash filling.  carefully pour the maple filling over the pecans.  ***do this slowly and hold the bowl close to the pie as you pour-the idea is to make layers and if you pour quickly or from a long distance above the surface you will force the pecans down into the squash layer.  bake until the pecan topping puffs up and is firm across the top, 40-45 minutes.
allow to cool before serving and if you like, serve it with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

a few more notes about this pie:  the squash could easily be made with any other sweet hard winter squash such as acorn or turban or some other heirloom variety as well as pumpkin.  sweet potatoes can also be used in the filling and if you prefer walnuts, go for it!

as always, if you dare to bake along, send me a photo and i will post it