There was a time when you could not escape kale. It was on television, billboards, in your smoothies and stuck in between your teeth. And as we begin the new year, this leafy green is once again front and center at the grocery store.
Kale used to give me a hard time. I thought it was rough, sandy, and my jaw would start to hurt three chews in. But now I know better. I now know the importance of massaging kale, which makes it more tender and digestible. I know its nutritional value. And I now know that there is nothing better than a kale Caesar salad.
My version has a wintry twist: squash and brussels sprouts. Adding the delicate squash makes this salad feel like a warm hug after a long day, pepitas provide a crunch and crispy brussels sprouts add fiber and flavor — who doesn’t love that combination? The recipe below calls for butternut squash, but you could easily use delicata squash.
One of my new year’s resolutions was no more dry, tasteless chicken. With that in mind, I learned one more trick that has changed the way I’ll make chicken forever. I bake the chicken with the simplest Caesar dressing. I’ve found that it makes the meat tender and adds so much flavor.
I’ll admit it: A little kale can go a long way. I mix it with romaine lettuce to get a balance of textures and all the green-y goodness. Because we’re not using tender greens like bibb lettuce or a spring mix, the salad can be prepared earlier in the day and chilled – come dinner time, all you have to do is mix the dressing in!
It’s easy to throw together, uses ingredients you likely already have in their pantry and is light enough that you don’t feel sluggish after your meal. You can make this for a dinner party, bring it to a potluck, or make a giant bowl for yourself as you binge both seasons of “The White Lotus” and manifest yourself in Hawaii or Sicily in 2023.
Winter Kale Chicken Caesar Salad
For the salad:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 head Tuscan kale
1 head romaine lettuce
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
½ pound brussels sprouts, halved
½ cup pepitas
For the Dressing
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon worcestershire or soy sauce
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
3 oil-packed anchovy filets or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
Two cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese, finely grated
Preheat oven to 425°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the butternut squash cubes on the sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and spread evenly on the baking sheet. Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until tender and browned around the edges. Halfway in, add the halved brussels sprouts to the same baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Depending on your oven, you may need a longer roasting time.
Make the Caesar dressing: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until the dressing is creamy.
Heat your lower oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil. With the back of a spoon, coat the chicken breasts with a tablespoon each of the Caesar dressing. Top with the Panko breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove and slice into bite-sized pieces.
Chop or tear the kale into bite-sized pieces and massage the kale gently with your hands.
Assemble the salad with the kale and romaine and roasted squash. Drizzle with ⅓ of the dressing, toss lightly, then add the chicken and pepitas. Toss with the rest of the dressing and serve.