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October 4, 2013

Grazing: Kale, Squash & Ricotta Salad with Cider Vinaigrette

KaleThe garden is taking its last bittersweet gasps, and they come in the form of Brussels sprouts, tomatillos, broccoli, carrots, squash, and kale.

Despite its heady cachet in Vermont, I'm not a huge fan of kale, kale chips notwithstanding. Mostly I wrestle with its chewy stems and waxy, stubborn leaves. Yet, as with all worthwhile things, if you put in the effort, you can reap huge rewards. In the case of kale, those include turbo-charged nutrition and an earthy base on which to layer other autumn morsels, such as Delicata squash, apples and fresh ricotta cheese.

I modeled this salad after one I ate recently at Popolo in Bellows Falls. That night, the kale had been massaged into submission, the dressing was delicate and gently sweet, and the ricotta cheese was so fresh that it oozed all over the bowl.

While I couldn't quite duplicate that salad's magnificence, this is my rough-hewn but (hopefully) still edible version, with the addition of pine nuts for texture and apple slices for crunch.

Kale, Squash & Ricotta Salad with Hard Cider Vinaigrette makes 2 servings

1 bunch lacinato kale (slightly sweeter and more malleable than curly kale)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 Delicata squash
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 apple, peeled and sliced thin
Handful of pine nuts
Fresh ricotta cheese (to make your own, click here)
Cider Vinaigrette*

(*Cider Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon mustard
2 teaspoons olive oil

Salt & pepper
Whisk to combine first five ingredients. Add salt & pepper to taste.)

Wash kale, and trim leaves from stems. Roughly chop leaves, toss with one tablespoon of olive oil and some salt, and let sit for a half-hour.

Wash squash, trim ends and slice into 1/2-inch rings. Scoop out seeds from middle of each ring, and sprinkle each with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. When hot, add garlic and sauté for one minute. Add squash rings, and sauté about four minutes each side, until tender. Remove to a plate covered with paper towels to drain.

To toast pine nuts: Place a dry pan over low heat, add nuts, and toss every few minutes until lightly browned. Remove from pan to small bowl.

Combine kale, apple slices and pine nuts. Coat with cider vinaigrette, and toss to combine. Lay squash rings on top and dollop ricotta across the plate. Serve.

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