Apple Cider Harvest Salad

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(Note: this post was originally published on November 24, 2019. The date above reflects migration to the new platform.)

Harvest Bounty

Happy harvest season and happy holiday season! 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, juicy pomegranate arils, and chewy dried figs. It's a symphony of fall flavors and a rainbow of fall colors. This is definitely THE salad to make for all your fall and holiday occasions this year!

Apple Cider Harvest Salad on a platter

Unexpected Flavor Powerhouses

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.

Close-up of Apple Cider Harvest Salad

Make it Work For YOU

Let's talk about some modifications! I love this salad so darn much, so I'll happily take any excuse to make it again and again and again, albeit with different twists.

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. I've also made this salad with some chewy farro tossed in and it's wonderful.  You could make it on a bed of quinoa or serve it with crusty bread. Oooo or even cornbread! You could also amp it up with some cheese (I'd use feta!) and/or some nuts (pecans or walnuts would be lovely, as would pepitas).

Make-Ahead Tips

Fortunately, this salad is quite make-ahead friendly, which is always such a relief during the holidays. You can do almost all of the work ahead of time except for the final assembly! The dressing can easily be made up to a week ahead. You can cut and clean the kale, roast the squash, and clean the pomegranate the day before. You can even let the kale marinate in the dressing for a few hours, so don't hesitate to do that the morning of and let it sit in the fridge. Just make sure to assemble everything right before serving so that the other ingredients don't get soggy.

Apple Cider Harvest Salad with fresh fall herbs

Let's Talk Ingredients

Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.

  • Apple cider. You'll use this both for making the dressing and for roasting the squash.
  • Bourbon. Totally optional, but it's a delightful addition to the dressing if you're a bourbon lover!
  • Whole grain mustard. Learn to make your own here, it's easy and fun!
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Maple syrup. Also optional; add a dash if you tend to like a sweeter dressing.
  • Fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Delicata squash. This salad would work beautifully with whatever squash you love! That said, delicata is hard to beat since it's so darn easy and fast to cook. If you use something else, you'll need to adjust the cooking method and time accordingly.
  • Olive oil
  • Kale. I love lacinato (aka dinosaur kale) because of its beautiful color and tender texture, but use what you prefer.
  • Radicchio. The radicchio plays a really important role here: its bitterness counteracts the sweetness of the fruit. I don't suggest omitting it or the salad may feel too sweet.
  • Fresh cranberries
  • Dried figs
  • Pomegranate arils

Apple Cider Harvest Salad on a platter

Closing Thoughts

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.

Happy harvest season! Let's celebrate all these beautiful gifts from nature!

Close-up of Apple Cider Harvest Salad

Share It!

It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.

Suggested Pairings

Apple Thyme Old Fashioned

Sweet and Salty Stuffed Figs

Spicy Ginger Sweet Potato Dip

Kabocha Squash Dippers

Apple Cider Donut Oat Flour Cake

Apple Cider Harvest Salad

This fall-themed salad celebrates the harvest season in all its bounty. A wonderfully flavorful reduced apple cider vinaigrette unites hearty kale, cozy squash, and sweet fall fruits to yield the perfect holiday salad.

Author:
Lee

Ingredients

For the Dressing

  • 1 c apple cider
  • Optional splash of bourbon
  • 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 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
  • Olive oil for roasting
  • Generous salt and pepper
  • 0.25 c apple cider
  • Large bunch of lacinato kale
  • Small head of radicchio
  • Handful of fresh cranberries
  • Handful of dried figs
  • Handful of pomegranate arils

Instructions

  1. Add the apple cider (+ optional bourbon) to a saucepan and simmer it until it has reduced significantly, to about a quarter cup. It should be thick and very flavorful.
  2. Remove the cider reduction from the heat. Stir in the 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.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425.
  5. Cut the delicata squashes in half and scoop out the seeds, then cut them into half-inch thick slices. Place them on an oiled baking sheet, add salt and pepper, and roast ~20-25 minutes at 425 until tender and caramelized.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Put the kale in a large mixing bowl with about half of the dressing. Give it all a very vigorous massage with your hands until the leaves are wilted and tender; it may take several minutes.
  9. Cut the radicchio into ribbons and add it to the kale.
  10. Let it all sit for a few minutes to continue tenderizing in the dressing.
  11. Meanwhile, prep your other salad toppings: cut the cranberries in half, cut the figs into thin slices, and open and clean the pomegranate.
  12. Add about half of the squash and half of the fruit into the salad and toss.
  13. Transfer the salad onto a serving platter and add the remaining squash and fruit on top.

Leave a Comment

Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you make this recipe? Did you make substitutions? How did you serve it? Any helpful tips? Please share your thoughts, since these insights are really useful to both me and to other readers.

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Catrina
November 14, 2021
Lee is so right about the radicchio balancing this salad! So delicious with that slight bitterness from the radicchio and the cranberries with the sweetness from the fruit! I did not use bourbon but still so flavorful and delicious. And I used butternut squash instead of delicata.