In Britain, there is a variety of kale called “Hungry Gap,” named after that period at the end of winter and in the beginning spring when there is little in the way of fresh produce.
Here in the Northeast, we are in the Hungry Gap, but sadly there is no local kale yet. When one begins to tire of tubers, squash and bulbs, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and buy other things, even if they come from far away.
As leafy greens go, kale is fairly hearty. It can hold up to heat — both in terms of temperature and strong flavors. Kale is a great addition to winter salads, providing a bright and cleanly bitter counterpoint to warmed grains and roasted squashes.
1 delicata squash, seeded and cut into small dice
1/4 cup of packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds, shelled
1 large bunch of lacinato kale, ribs removed and leaves cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup of red quinoa, uncooked
The juice and zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons of pumpkin seed oil (or olive oil)
Freshly grated Parmesan
How to prepare:
1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the brown sugar, the balsamic vinegar and the delicata squash. Drizzle it with olive oil, sprinkle it with salt, and toss everything together until the squash is evenly coated with the balsamic-olive-oil-sugar mixture. Spread the squash out in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Roast it until it just begins to soften and the edges begin to caramelize, about 15-17 minutes. Spread the pumpkin seeds over the top of the squash, and continue to roast everything for about 2-3 minutes more. When the pumpkin seeds are nicely toasted, transfer everything to a large bowl.
3. Rinse the quinoa if needed. In a separate saucepan, combine the quinoa with about two cups of water and a hefty pinch of salt. Bring everything to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Simmer the quinoa over low heat until all the water is absorbed, and the quinoa is tender. Fluff it with a fork when it is done.
4. In the meanwhile, wilt (or steam) the kale in a separate pan. When the kale is wilted, remove it to a colander. Once the kale is cool enough to handle, gently press as much liquid as you can out of the leaves without squeezing them.
5. Add the kale and the quinoa to the candied squash. Toss the salad together with two tablespoons of pumpkin seed oil and the juice and zest of one lemon. Adjust the seasoning. Before serving, grate a nice fluffy mound of Parmesan cheese on top.