Despite having posted tales of pound cake gone awry and some fabulous kumquat sauce, I have actually done quite a bit of healthy eating lately. I have Trader Joe’s and Food52 to thank for this, I think.

I’ve been scheming to educate myself more about food & really take my cooking to the next level. I’m reasonably competent in the kitchen but I am eyeing taking that next step. Anyhoo, part of my plan was to start cooking my way through Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook. Having perused some of the recipes on Food52’s site, I was impressed with their quality and content. (Coincidentally, I see that Michael Ruhlman has also had wonderful things to say about this book. That really reinforced that I was onto something.) My logic follows along with the idea that cooking through the entire book will not only be educational but will also cover a variety of dishes and force me out of my comfort zone where food is concerned.

Kale & Butternut Squash Salad

This salad is a good first example. Truly, I don’t think I would have tried this had I A) not committed myself to making it and B) not seen every ingredient that I needed on last weekend’s trip to Trader Joe’s.  In fact, everything from this dish–except the spices and lemon–came from TJ’s. If you subscribe to such things, I’d say it was meant to be. The universe tends to unfold as it should, you know?

I made a few tweaks to the original recipe. I added the garlic as a seasoning to the squash. I used shaved parmesan instead of aged cheddar. It seemed to make a little more sense than cheddar to me. I also adjusted the quantities of the squash and kale to use the whole bags.

I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. While I’ve used kale many times in the past, I’ve always either cooked it or juiced it. I’d never had it raw as one of the main ingredients. I had never developing a liking for the raw veggie because I just didn’t like the taste/texture and I was dubious about the benefits of massaging the kale. I did taste the kale before and after massaging it and, yes, it did make a big difference with this kale. It took it from being a little tough and bitter to something smoother, sweeter and much more palatable. Combined with the roasted squash, almonds and parmesan, along with the pop of citrus, the salad was nothing short of delicious. Wait, right? I used the word ‘delicious.’ About KALE.

I’m going to add this one to my regular rotation and won’t hesitate to serve it to guests.

Recipe: Kale & Butternut Squash Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Sides, Entree
Serves: 2 generous entree sized salads
  • 1 package Trader Joe's Peeled & Cubed Butternut Squash (about 2 lbs)
  • 1 bag Trader Joe's Kale
  • ¼ cup almonds (Roughly chopped, if you want. I left them whole.)
  • ¼ cup shaved or grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • Trader Joe's Greek Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Granulated garlic
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Toss the butternut squash with just enough olive oil to coat the pieces. Season the squash with enough garlic, salt and pepper to suit your tastes.
  3. Spread out the squash on a baking sheet and put in the oven to bake until nicely browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Give them a stir every 10 minutes or so.
  4. Put the almonds on another baking sheet and put in the oven with the squash. Toast them in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until browned a bit and they smell nutty. Give them a shake once or twice. Set aside and let them cool.
  5. While the squash is baking, put the kale in a large bowl. If it is more mature or fiberous, give it a vigorous massage with a bit of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. This will help break down the fiber and will make the kale taste a little sweeter.
  6. Squeeze as much lemon and add as much additional olive oil as you'd like over the kale. Give it a toss to combine.
  7. After taking the squash out of the oven and letting it cool a bit, toss it, the almonds and some shavings of parmesan into the bowl. Toss it all together to combine. Give it a taste and season with more salt and pepper, if desired.
  8. Pile the salad onto dinner plates or large shallow bowls. Enjoy!
Adapted from Food52 & Northern Spy.