Saturday, January 17, 2015

Winter Kale Slaw

New Year's Day is a big deal in my family - far bigger than that whole champagne-until-you-drop New Year's Eve business, which, to be perfectly honest, I'd really rather skip through entirely. This year I did mostly that, uncorking a bottle of blanc de blanc and watching a very sanitized-for-TV version of Pretty Woman before conking out at 11 pm in true rockstar fashion.

It was everything I dreamt it would be when all other plans for the evening fell through at the last second, mostly due to my hesitation to spend $300 on an Uber.

This, my friends, is real life. (At least in Los Angeles.)

But New Year's Day is another story entirely, a story that has been repeating itself for as long as I can remember. Every year, my dad takes over the kitchen at my folks' house down in Newport Beach, and cooks up a huge Mexican feast that includes no fewer than four baking dishes filled with chicken enchiladas, carne asada, guacamole, rice, and, depending on my family's interest level that year, black beans with salt pork.

It's a bold move for the first day of January, a moment when everyone is feeling slightly remorseful about eating and drinking far more than usual in the preceding days/weeks (see "champagne-until-you-drop"), and is toying with the idea of resolutions that preclude the ingestion of anything remotely fun at all.

Naturally, everyone in my family chooses to go in the opposite direction - skirting around the notion of lightening up in favor of, well, skirt steak tacos. We pretend that words like "cleanse" and "resolution" and "new year, new you" don't exist, each of us singing a chorus of "La la la, I can't hear you" in our heads.

And, so we feast.

Doing horrible things like grating cheddar cheese over nacho cheese Doritos and sticking them under the broiler to make "nachos," and piling our plates precariously full with my dad's enchiladas topped with an obscene quantity of guacamole. Because we all know that guacamole is basically a salad, right?

Amidst all this reckless (and hence glorious) gluttony, I usually find myself in the minority contingent that actually does want something leaf-like to provide a bit of contrast on that over-loaded plate. Not because I plan to eat any less of everything else, but because I genuinely enjoy having a kale palate cleanser between bites of white trash nacho Doritos (the best).

This year, I pushed a winter kale slaw salad (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen) on my family, forcing them to briefly acknowledge that there is an outside world where vegetables do exist on January 1st. For once, my efforts weren't met with eye rolls, but rather nods of appreciation.

This salad, while virtuous, is by no means a wimpy, wilty, sad sack situation. With its cinnamon-spiced cubes of roasted butternut squash, tart pomegranate seeds, and aggressive garnish of both toasted pumpkin seeds AND parmesan reggiano, it is a salad with substance. It can stand alone on those days after January 1 when nothing more is needed, but still hold its own as an interloper in the midst of a robust holiday feast.

In other words, it's a true rockstar. (Even if its maker is decidedly not.)

Winter Kale Slaw with Roasted Shallot Dressing
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen
Serves a lot of people

Notes: The original version of this recipe calls for dried cherries and pecans, which feels like a completely reasonable thing to do in a winter slaw recipe. Because I was serving this alongside Mexican food on the first go, I opted to use pomegranate seeds and pepitas instead and have stuck with this route for the time being. Most of everything else remains fairly enact other than with regards to the dressing, which I've tweaked slightly - reducing the olive oil, using the full recommended amount of apple cider vinegar, and nixing the chives, simply because I didn't have any. You won't need all the dressing (unless you like things VERY dressed), but it will keep in the fridge for a few days, so can be repurposed on other salad-type things. Tis the season, right?

3 cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2'' cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of salt, smoked paprika and cinnamon

2 bunches lacinato/tuscan kale, stems-removed, washed and dried, and sliced into thin ribbons
1/2 head red cabbage, sliced into thin ribbons (hello, knife skills!)
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin (Pro tip: If you are adverse to raw onions, try soaking the slices in cold water for 30 minutes or so before using)
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
Sea salt, to taste
3/4 cup shaved parmesan reggiano
3/4 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Roasted shallot dressing
2 small or 1 large shallot (skins on!)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon each sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Trim the ends off the shallot (or shallots), drizzle with a bit of olive oil and wrap up in foil. Place in oven and let roast for approximately 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool slightly before handling. Once you're able to confidently touch it without scalding your fingers, peel off the skin. Place the peeled shallot in a blender with the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper, and puree until smooth.

Toss the butternut squash with olive oil, and season with salt, smoked paprika and cinnamon. Spread out in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast until easily pierced with a fork (around 20-30 minutes depending on the firmness of the squash). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

In a very large salad bowl, combine the slivered kale, cabbage, red onion, roasted butternut squash, and pomegranate seeds. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Drizzle part of the dressing over the salad and begin to toss, tasting after the first application to gage whether to add more. (Note: You may even want to let it sit for 5-10 minutes before tasting, as the dressing with start to soften the kale/cabbage and you may not need to add much more!) 

Once the slaw is dressed to your liking, serve, topped with parmesan and pepitas.

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