I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! We travelled to Portland (Oregon), to see close friends and family and had a wonderfully fun and food-filled week. Now that we’re back home, I’m craving salads. The first one I made upon resettling at home was this one that incorporates kale and squash, inspired by a similar salad I saw last year on Food52. It might not rank up there with peanut butter and chocolate, but kale and squash is one of my favorite food combinations, and this time of year when both are in season, it’s my favorite kind of salad.
I love the vast array of shapes and colors of squash all jumbled together up on a table at the Farmer’s Market. I’ve played with butternut and acorn squashes for years, but kabocha was a new one for me a couple of years ago when I ran into it in school. Also known in some circles as a Japanese pumpkin, I’d seen it around and had been curious about it, but had never ventured any further than that. For those of you new to kabocha, it has a knobby, dull, greenish-gray skin that hides vibrantly deep yellow flesh.
It can be baked whole or chopped into smaller pieces and roasted. I peel it with a potato peeler, but the skin is thick and hard, so a sharp knife sometimes works better. When baked, kabocha is a drier squash than either the butternut or acorn variety, and more dense reminding me a bit of sweet potatoes; if squash can have a rich flavor, this is surely it. And it may be the sweetest squash I’ve tried, pairing wonderfully with coconut milk.
For this recipe I chopped the kabocha up into bite-sized cubes, tossed them in olive oil and dusted them with a rub of coffee, chocolate and brown sugar. Coconut sugar works great in this rub too. I roasted them until they were tender.
The coffee flavor added a lot of depth to the kabocha and to the salad.
Feel free to throw apples into the salad instead of persimmons, but if you see some persimmons at the store I recommend them for the juicy contrast they offer to the kabocha. I just sliced one up and tossed it in. If I had some pomegranate seeds, I would have added them too. Next time, I’ll make sure I have some on hand.
This is a great salad for your body between the eating holidays of the year when we all consume more sweets, breads, and snacks than we normally do. And it’s so easy to make. Enjoy!
Kabocha and Kale Salad with Persimmon Slices
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Kabocha and Kale Salad
- 1 kabocha squash
- Olive oil
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or make your own)
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee
- 1 teaspoon cacao nibs
- 1/4 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
- 1 bunch kale (I used curly purple kale, but any kale works great)
- 1 Fuyu persimmon
- 1/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese (I used Cabot)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Pomegranate seeds
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel the kabocha squash and chop into bite-sized pieces. Toss in enough olive oil to well coat the pieces. Lay them out on the parchment paper.
- Combine the brown sugar, coffee and cacao nibs together in a spice grinder and grind together for 15 seconds. Sprinkle over the kabocha pieces. Roast for 10 minutes or until tender. Remove and set aside.
- Remove the center stem of the kale leaves and tear the leaves into smaller pieces. Thoroughly wash and dry. Add to a large bowl.
- Slice the fuyu persimmon into slices and add to the bowl along with the cheddar cheese, pumpkin seeds, and pomegranate seeds.
- Combine all the ingredients for the dressing and mix well. Toss the squash in 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Add the rest of the dressing to the salad in the bowl and toss. Add the squash pieces and lightly toss again.
- This is best served while the squash is still warm.