Acorn Squash and Kale Salad with Lavender, Walnut Caramelized Onions

Enjoyed cold or warm, this salad combines autumn colors and fragrant flavors. It is easy to prepare the ingredients individually ahead of time and assemble them at the last minute for a Thanksgiving dinner or other get together. You can also add a few dried cranberries if you wish to make it a bit more festive.

20131122-053413.jpgIf you do not have lavender leaves, you can substitute for sage. A different flavor but one that also harmonizes well with the acorn squash.

20131122-053548.jpgIngredients:
1 1/2-1 3/4 lbs acorn squash
1/2 lb kale
1.5 lbs white onions
2 oz walnuts
6 Tbsp olive oil for vinaigrette + 2 Tbsp for caramelized onions and acorn squash
3 tsps balsamic vinegar for vinaigrette
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar for caramelized onions
1/8 oz lavender
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven 400F.

20131122-053804.jpgWash and cut the acorn squash in half. Remove the seeds with a large spoon.

20131122-053950.jpgBrush a little olive oil on the cut sides.

20131122-054133.jpgPlace the acorn squash cut side down in a baking pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes. The squash is cooked when it is slightly soft to the touch, but still somewhat firm.  You do not want to fully cook the squash as if you were making soup as the flesh will not hold well for the purpose of the salad and rather it would become pureed.

20131122-054323.jpgPeel the onions, cut in half and slice thinly.

20131122-054424.jpgHeat olive oil on medium high heat in a heavy cast iron pan and pour in the onions.  Reduce the heat to low. Mix well to coat them with the olive oil thoroughly. Simmer for about an hour, tossing periodically.

20131122-054531.jpgSeparate the stems from the lavender leaves.

20131122-070232.jpgChop the lavender leaves finely. Set aside.

20131122-131132.jpgChop the walnuts medium-coarse. Set aside.

20131122-131802.jpgRinse the kale carefully.  Gather the leaves together, with the stems on one end.  Cut off and discard the hard part of the stems and chop the leaves very finely.  Set aside.

20131122-132537.jpgMake a balsamic vinaigrette in a bowl large enough to contain the chopped kale. Whisk together the vinegar, salt and pepper.

20131122-150822.jpgAdd the olive oil in a stream slowly and continue whisking vigorously to transform the mixture into a well homogenized sauce. Set aside.

20131122-203927.jpgWhen the acorn squash is cooked, turn each half upside down to release the steam and let cool for handling.

20131122-204023.jpgPlacing each half of the acorn squash cut side down onto a cutting board, cut through the skin using a serrated knife into thick slices.

20131122-204158.jpgPeel each slice carefully.  Set aside.

20131122-204314.jpgBy now, the onions should have mostly caramelized. Add the walnuts to the pan and keep on low heat for a few minutes longer.

20131122-204413.jpgAdd the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan and turn off the heat.

20131122-204512.jpgPlace a few slices of acorn squash on each plate and brush a little bit of the vinaigrette on the top of each slice.

20131122-204601.jpgToss the sliced kale in the large bowl with the vinaigrette and display the kale around each acorn squash slice for presentation.

20131122-204943.jpgSprinkle with the caramelized onions and walnut mixture. Add the fresh lavender.  Enjoy!

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