Apple Cider Harvest Salad

The most perfect fall salad! Hearty kale, bitter radicchio, roasted squash, and all the fun toppings come together in this apple cider-themed harvest salad.

Isn't this a gorgeous salad?? I think fall vegetables and fruits are so incredibly beautiful. Of course they can yield all sorts of delicious cooked dishes, but in my opinion they're at their most gorgeous in a raw (or primarily raw), straightforward preparation like this.

This salad really has it all: tender massaged kale, bitter radicchio, sweet roasty squash, tart cranberries, sweet pomegranate arils, and chewy dried figs. It's a symphony of fall flavors and a rainbow of fall colors.

Apple cider is the central theme of this salad, and it comes into play in two different important ways. First, the dressing is a cider reduction, yielding the most wonderful balance of sweetness and acidity. The squash is also roasted in cider. Apple cider is such a wonderful fall treat, and it's so fun to use in non-obvious ways.

The main secret to this salad is massaging the kale. Yes, this is non-negotiable, it needs a massage! This helps break down the fibrous leaves, making them tender and more able to absorb the flavorful dressing. I promise that this is a surefire way to help kale skeptics fall in love with this delightful leafy green.

I often make huge, harvest-y fall salads, but I designed this one in particular for a squash-themed potluck in late October. This potluck has been a yearly ritual among some of my Vermont friends for a long time. It was originally a Pumpkin Potluck, although this year it evolved into a Squash Supper in order to include more types of fall produce. There were all sorts of creations including pumpkin lentil soup, a squash and apple bake, pumpkin cornbread, a pumpkin mousse tart, pumpkin sugar cookies, and of course this squashy salad.

I hope you'll give this salad a place at your own fall celebrations or at the Thanksgiving table! It's an eye-catching dish, and will be a much-appreciated fresh, light element among all the other heavier fare. But this salad is also humble enough (and easy enough) to make for a quick fall dinner.

Speaking of dinner, let's talk about some modifications! If you want to make this into a main course, add your protein of choice; I think some crunchy, roasted chick peas would be perfect. You could also amp it up with some cheese (I'd use feta!) and/or some nuts (pecans would be lovely, as would pepitas). You could make it on a bed of quinoa, or serve it with crusty bread. Oooo or even cornbread! Anyways, the point is that you can really make this yours, and make it work for a variety of settings.

Hope you're enjoying squash season as much as I am!

Please share your creation so I can see how you've interpreted the concept! Tag "The Rogue Brussel Sprout" on Facebook or hashtag #theroguebrusselsprout on Instagram. 

Looking for another another celebration of fall's best veggies? This Creamy Vegan Kabocha Squash Soup is so cozy and uses my (other) most favorite squash!

Thoughts About Ingredients
(These are all just suggestions, since rogue is more fun than recipe)

For the Dressing
  • 1 c apple cider. Definitely not the same thing as apple juice!
  • Optional generous splash of bourbon
  • 1-2 tbsp whole grain mustard. Learn how to make your own here, it's a great addition to all sorts of dressings and sauces. 
  • Dash of apple cider vinegar
  • Optional dash of maple syrup
  • Leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Generous salt and pepper
For the Salad
  • 2 delicata squashes
  • Oil, salt, and pepper for roasting
  • 0.25 c apple cider for roasting
  • Large bunch of lacinato kale
  • Sprinkle of cider vinegar and salt for the kale massage
  • Small head of radicchio
  • Handful of fresh cranberries
  • Handful of dried figs
  • Handful of pomegranate arils
Thoughts About Method
(These are all just suggestions, be creative and make it yours)
  1. Add about a cup of apple cider (+ bourbon??) to a saucepan and simmer it until it has reduced significantly, to about 0.25c. It should be thick and very flavorful.
  2. Remove the cider reduction from the heat. Stir in mustard, a little dash of cider vinegar, the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme, and generous salt and pepper.
  3. Give your dressing a taste! If you think it needs sweetness, add a tiny bit of maple syrup. If you think it needs more zing, add a bit more cider vinegar and/or salt. You can easily make this ahead of time, and/or make a big batch and save it for later use.
  4. Cut the delicata squashes in half and scoop out the seeds. Then cut them into half-inch pieces as shown above. Place them on an oiled baking sheet, add salt and pepper, and roast ~20-25 minutes until tender and caramelized.
  5. When the squash slices are nearing completion, drizzle them very liberally with apple cider and return them to the oven for five minutes. The squash will soak up the cider and become very flavorful. Important note: don't try to add the cider at the beginning, it will burn because of its sugar content.
  6. Meanwhile, strip the ribs out of the kale leaves, then cut the kale into thin ribbons perpendicular to where the stems used to be. Give the ribbons a good wash in warm water, which helps start the tenderizing process, then drain well.
  7. Put the kale in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle it with apple cider vinegar, and salt it generously. Give it all a very vigorous massage with your hands until the leaves are wilted and tender; it may take several minutes.
  8. Cut the radicchio into ribbons and add it to the kale.
  9. Let it all sit for a few minutes to continue tenderizing in the vinegar and salt.
  10. Meanwhile, prep your salad toppings. I like to cut the cranberries in half and the figs into thin slices.
  11. If you want to dress the salad ahead of time, I suggest doing that now. Or, if it's going to sit out for a while, keep the dressing on the side. If you do want to add the dressing now, do so gradually so that you get the right amount. Work it into the ribboned kale and radicchio by tossing thoroughly.
  12. Plate the salad however you like. As shown above, I like a big platter of greens surrounded by squash. I like to add the figs, cranberries, and pomegranate at the end so that they're more visible. If you want to add cheese or nuts, save them for the end so that they maintain their texture.


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