Leafy greens really flourish in North Carolina during the fall. On my last trip to the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, I was awed by the abundance of lettuce and kale varieties, chard and other greens like collards and bok choy. I brought home a beautiful bunch of lacinto kale and immediately got to work prepping and autumn-themed kale and quinoa salad.
AUTUMN KALE AND QUINOA SALAD
This salad combines massaged lacinto kale and fluffy cooked quinoa with roasted butternut squash, pepitas, dried cranberries, goat cheese and pears. A maple apple cider vinaigrette is the perfect finishing touch.
LACINTO KALE IS THE BEST KALE!
When it comes to kale salads, green curly kale seems to win the popularity contest but I actually prefer to use lacinto kale. I find it to be less bitter and more tender. Overall, I enjoy the taste and texture much more than green curly kale and it’s my go-to for almost any recipe calling for kale.
Lacinto kale is a heirloom vegetable from Italy. It’s also known as dino kale, tuscan kale or black kale. The plants can grow up to three feet and feature dark bluish-green leaves with distinct ribs. Lacinto kale is actually a member of the cabbage family so it’s related to vegetables like collards, cauliflower and broccoli. And just like other kale varieties, lacinto kale is packed with healthy nutrients.
AUTUMN KALE AND QUINOA SALAD INGREDIENTS
Here’s a deep dive into the ingredients that go into this autumn kale and quinoa salad.
- Massaged lacinto kale – clean the kale by removing the ribs, chopping the kale and then rinsing and drying thoroughly. I like to use my salad spinner for this. Place the clean, dry kale in a large bowl and add a tablespoon or two of olive oil (or avocado oil), a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of sea salt. Get in there with your hands and massage the kale for a minute or two. I think massaging kale is a game changer in making kale salads that are pleasurable to eat because it breaks down the tough, fibrous aspects of the kale yielding greens that are easier to chew and digest.
- Cooked quinoa – I used white quinoa and I always cook it in a 2:1 water to grain ratio with a little bit of salt.
- Roasted butternut squash – I peeled and cubed my squash and then tossed it with avocado oil and kosher salt to roast until it was soft and caramelized. You could also use olive oil or coconut oil and could also sub a different type of squash if you prefer!
- Pears – thinly sliced pears are a perfect fall addition to this salad. I have also used apples and that works great too.
- Goat cheese – I used a cherry pistachio flavored goat cheese but any goat cheese would work here – plain, honey flavored, cranberry – whatever you can find/like. It’s the tang of the goat cheese that works so well with the other sweet and earthy ingredients.
- Pepitas – you can’t make a fall salad without pumpkin seeds! They have a great flavor and add a needed crunch to the salad.
- Dried cranberries – I love dried cranberries on most any salad but they really work well here.
- Maple apple cider vinaigrette – a simple blend of maple syrup, olive oil, dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar.
ASSEMBLING THE SALAD
Once you have all of the ingredients prepped, assembling this kale and quinoa salad is a breeze! Simply layer the kale and quinoa and then top it with the roasted squash, pears, goat cheese, pepitas and dried cranberries. Dress and season to taste.
I prepped the main ingredients for this salad and stored them separately (kale, quinoa, roasted squash, dressing). This made it fast and easy to pull everything out and whip up a fresh salad for lunch.
Here’s the full recipe!Print
An autumn-themed kale and quinoa salad with roasted butternut squash, pears, goat cheese and a maple apple cider vinegar vinaigrette. A hearty, nutritious and meatless seasonal salad.
FOR THE KALE
1 big bunch of lacinto kale – stems removed, chopped, washed and dried (about 3 cups chopped)
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
FOR THE SALAD
3/4 cup quinoa (dry), rinsed
1 butternut squash, cubed and roasted
1 pear or apple, thinly sliced
3–4 ounces goat cheese
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pepitas
FOR THE DRESSING
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
FOR THE KALE
In a large bowl, massage the washed and dried kale with the oil, lemon juice and salt. Set aside.
FOR THE QUINOA
Bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add quinoa and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes and then fluff. Note, I like the quinoa to be cooled off when I use it in this recipe.
FOR THE DRESSING
Whisk together the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, dijon mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.
ASSEMBLE THE SALAD
Layer the kale and quinoa and then top with roasted squash, pears, crumbled goat cheese, dried cranberries and pepitas. Dress and season to taste.
Keywords: kale, salad, fall, autumn, healthy
Do you like kale? What is your favorite type of kale?
Have you ever tried massaging kale?
Favorite way to eat/cook kale?