Harvest Moon Kale Caesar Salad with Creamy Maple Mustard Dressing
New rule: everyone should have a damn good kale salad recipe in their back pocket. This is mine! I drizzle lemon juice and olive oil over kale and massage until the leaves are tenderized. Then I toss the kale with roasted delicata squash, crisp gala apples, tamari-cinnamon toasted pecans and a tangy cashew butter mustard-maple dressing. I like a salad that’s simple enough to eat every day and delicious enough to grace a holiday table.
Now this salad dressing: in my mind it’s reminiscent of a good caesar. It’s creamy thanks to cashew butter and tahini. Apple cider vinegar and dijon mustard give it some bite. Miso paste replaces the umami one would normally get in a caesar dressing from anchovy / parmesan. Black pepper, cayenne and smoked paprika give it some heat and smoke. And maple rounds out the flavor, giving this dressing a twinge of Autumn.
I would use this dressing all year, not just during Fall / Winter. But I’m a die hard maple-mustard fan, so there ya have it. I’ve made this many times with less maple which makes it much more all-seasons friendly, which I highly suggest you attempt if you love this dressing as-is.
I also have to say that I think this salad would be wonderful on a Thanksgiving table. I’m always the designated salad bearer at Thanksgiving, and I usually make something along these lines. Hearty, simple, laden with squash and nuts, with a bit of mustard and smokiness and sweetness. I like to bring something tangy, light and bright to thanksgiving to cut through the richness of everything else.
Last thought: My aunt and uncle in California always do super simple salads with dinner, just really fresh produce and a light dressing. And it’s always wonderful. Whereas my parents are totally bonkers over big, hearty, thick salads with as many toppings as reasonably possible. It’s also always wonderful. I think I tow the line between those two salad philosophies most of the time. I want the produce to shine through, but I also want to feel full and satisfied on salad alone sometimes. I like that you can amp this salad concept up to 11 if you want to go all out with creative ideas, or you could pull it way back with just kale leaves and dressing.
And hey here are some variation ideas!
Replace delicata with roasted, cubed kabocha or butternut squash.
Replace pecans with any nut or seed you fancy (I think walnuts or pumpkin seeds would be lovely).
Add dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds or fresh currants for some fruity brightness and a pop of color.
For a heartier salad, add cooked brown rice, quinoa, orzo pasta or tiny roasted potatoes + a sautéed protein like tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, wild salmon or sustainably raised poultry.
For a Cali vibe, add avocado, goat cheese, sautéed mushrooms and some sliced hard boiled egg.
Enjoy! And don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @willfrolicforfood if you make this recipe. xo — Renee B.
Harvest Moon Kale Caesar Salad with Creamy Maple-Mustard Dressing
Active prep time: 30 mins - Inactive prep time: 0 mins - Cook time: 27 mins - Makes 4 meal sized servings or 8 smaller servings as a side dish - PRINT THIS RECIPE - Tips: This salad is great for grab-and-go lunches throughout the week. If you’re planning on storing this salad for lunches (or just storing leftovers) I would suggest leaving the apples out and then slicing fresh apples into your salad right before you nosh.
Harvest Moon Kale Caesar Salad
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 tbsp tamari or liquid aminos
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1 medium to large delicata squash, deseeded and sliced into half moons
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 bunch kale
2 tbsp olive oil divided
1 Gala or Fuji apple (a crisp variety)
Creamy Maple Mustard Dressing (see below)
Preheat oven to 325F and set ½ cup pecan halves on a medium-large rimmed baking sheet. Toast pecan halves on the center rack of the oven for 7 minutes -- they’ll be aromatic and deeply golden. Immediately after the pecans come out of the oven, place the nuts in a small bowl and add tamari, cinnamon, and smoked paprika. Toss nuts to coat evenly and set aside.
Increase oven temperature to 400F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (for easy clean up). On the sheet pan toss the delicata half moons with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange half moons on the sheet so they are not touching or overlapping. Roast for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove stems from the kale and tear leaves into bite sized pieces. Squeeze juice from half of the lemon over the kale and drizzle in the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Massage kale with your hands until the leaves tenderize, about 2 minutes.
Slice the apple and toss the apple slices with the juice from the other ½ of the lemon.
Combine everything in your serving bowl, pouring the dressing over top and tossing to coat everything evenly. Serve and enjoy!
Creamy Maple-Mustard Dressing
1 clove garlic
4 tbsp cashew butter
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp + 2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tbsp + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp white miso paste
1/16 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
In a high-powered upright blender, combine all ingredients: garlic clove, cashew butter, tahini, dijon mustard, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, miso paste, cayenne, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper and water. Blend until smooth.