Confession: I know a lot of people love sweeter salads, like the kind with fruit, craisins, candied nuts, etc., but I’m not really into them.
THIS is a salad I can get excited about. Butternut squash roasted with chipotle chile pepper to contrast the sweetness, tangy feta cheese, salty roasted pepitas, and the bright cilantro lime vinaigrette on a bed of nutritious kale. Spicy, zesty, and hearty. YES.
If butternut squash stresses you out, feel free to buy a package that’s already cubed for you at the store. However, you’ll save some money and the taste will be much better if you cut it yourself! This task is made so much easier thanks to this article that I found a couple of years ago, which informed me that you can microwave your squash first so that it’s easier to cut through! The article has great directions to make your butternut squash experience stress-free so that you can focus your attention on the deliciousness.
The cilantro lime vinaigrette is inspired by a restaurant in our area called Mad Mex and is based off of this pin that I found. It’s sooo flavorful and simple! All you have to do is throw Dijon mustard, garlic, a jalapeño pepper, some fresh lime and lemon juice, fresh cilantro, and Parmesan cheese in a blender. Once it’s smooth, slowly add in some olive oil while the blender is on.
(Looking at this again, I see their dressing is actually called lime cilantro… but now cilantro lime is already stuck in my brain so I’m sticking with that!)
Here are some tips I’ve learned for how to make a great kale salad and not feel like you’re chewing on a tree! First, don’t forget to strip the tough stems from the leaves. Instead of tearing the kale, run your knife through it and slice it into bite-sized pieces. (You can even shred it if you prefer.) Then – this is the part that sounds weird – you need to massage your kale. Yup. Stay with me!
Massaging some of the dressing into the kale helps it relax and loosen up a little bit. Use both hands and rub the dressing into the leaves until they begin to tenderize and wilt. This helps to cut the bitterness and toughness! Finally, let the salad sit for a couple of minutes after massaging before you serve.
Since kale is so sturdy, it really holds up to a heavier dressing like this one and doesn’t get soggy. When I packed leftovers of this salad for lunch, I tossed the salad with the dressing the morning before I left for work and let it marinate until lunchtime. (Which means I didn’t have to pack an extra container for my dressing, which means there was one less dish to wash. Kale salads for the win!!) You could even toss it in the dressing the night before!
Ahh, that’s a big bowl of delicious health!
Chipotle Butternut Squash Kale Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
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This easy salad is the perfect mix of spicy chipotle roasted butternut squash, tangy feta cheese, salty roasted pepitas, and a bright cilantro lime vinaigrette on a bed of nutritious kale. Works as a side dish, but is also hearty enough for a vegetarian main meal!
- For the cilantro lime vinaigrette:
- 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped or pasted with a microplane grater
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 jalapeño, stems and seeds removed
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup cilantro
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- For the salad:
- 1 butternut squash; peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
- 1 to 2 tsp. chipotle chile powder
- 1 to 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large bunch of kale, stems removed and sliced into bite-sized pieces
- about 4 to 8 oz. feta cheese (depending on how much cheese you like)
- about 3 oz. pepitas (pumpkin seed kernels), roasted and salted (I bought mine this way!)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Toss the cubed butternut squash with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and chipotle chile powder on a baking sheet lined with foil.
- Roast for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until tender and caramelized. If you think about it, you can stir them around about halfway through cooking.
- For the dressing, throw all of the ingredients except for the olive oil in a blender and puree until smooth. Slowly add in the oil while the blender is on until it emulsifies. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference!
- Put the kale in a large bowl and add a little bit of the dressing. Massage the dressing into the kale leaves using your hands until they begin to wilt and tenderize. Let this sit for a couple of minutes.
- Top the massaged kale with the roasted butternut squash, feta, pepitas, and more dressing. Serve!
Of course “The Inspector” has to take a look to see what’s going on here. I think it has her approval!
Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette adapted from here.