It's October and fall has finally hit Los Angeles! It was 85 degrees just two days ago and now gloomy skies have entered bringing rain and wind; I absolutely love it! To celebrate the fall season, I decided to make a salad with fruits and vegetables that represent the season. For lunch, I present a cinnamon chile spiced steak kale salad with spiced pecans, roasted butternut squash, fresh pears, cherry tomatoes, and blue cheese all tossed with an apple cider vinaigrette. This kale salad is so full of flavor that it'll become part of your regular menu, I know it has for me!
Cinnamon Chile Spiced Steak Kale Salad
- 3 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ tablespoon maple syrup
- 5 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 bunches kale stems removed, leaves torn
- 1 small butternut squash peeled, seeds removed, cubed
- ½ tablespoon cinnamon
- ½ tablespoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 ½ cups pecan halves
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- 2 teaspoon ancho chile pepper
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon chipotle chile pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ lb rib-eye steaks
- 2 Anjou pears thinly sliced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 4 oz crumbled blue cheese
- Prepare the apple cider vinaigrette by whisking together the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and olive oil in a medium bowl. Toss half the vinaigrette with the kale and massage the oil into the leaves. Let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to one day. Reserve the remaining vinaigrette.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Combine the seasonings for the butternut squash from the cinnamon - cayenne. Toss the butternut squash with the seasonings, 2 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the squash on a baking sheet in one even layer. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until softened, stirring the squash after 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Reduce oven to 350 degrees F.
- Prepare the spiced pecans. Lightly beat the egg white with the water. Add the pecans and toss to coat. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the pecans on top in one even layer. Mix together the sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl and sprinkle over the pecans, stirring to combine. Toast the pecans for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately transfer pecans to a clean parchment paper. Let cool completely.
- Meanwhile, cook the steaks. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Combine the ancho chile pepper - salt in a small bowl. Season both sides of the steaks with the chili seasoning mix. Grill steaks until desired degree of doneness. Remove from heat and let rest 10 minutes. Slice steaks across the grain.
- Assemble the salads. Plate about 1 ½ - 2 cups kale per portion, and top with butternut squash, spiced pecans, cherry tomatoes, sliced pear wedges, and steak. Sprinkle blue cheese and drizzle remaining dressing. Serve.
**Helpful hints and common mistakes
So you're probably looking at this recipe and thinking, that's a lot of work for a salad! I admit it's not the simplest salad to put together, but the seasoning and roasting of the ingredients will produce a more flavorful salad than you could ever anticipate.
When grocery shopping for kale, you will notice that there are several different types of kale, including:
- Curly kale: the most common type of kale available. This "flowering" kale is mild and slightly sweet.
- Dinosaur kale: also known as Lacinato Kale, this leafy green has tall narrow leaves and wrinkled texture.
- Redbor kale: looks similar to curly kale but has a vibrant purple/ dark red hue.
- Kamome red kale: just as the name suggests, this kale has a dark red hue similar to Redbor kale. Also another type of "flowering" kale, kamome is slightly more bitter than other varieties.
I almost always purchase curly kale, but this time I went with the Kamome red kale. Because of its bitter leaves, the sweet dressing pairs perfectly with the kale. You want to massage the vinaigrette into the kale to soften up the leaves. If the kale is dressed at the last minute, it will still have a strong bitter taste and tough texture.
For the squash, butternut squash is perfect because it holds its shape after being cooked and has a mild enough flavor to easily manipulate. Flip the squash halfway through cooking to let both sides caramelize.
When baking the pecans, keep an eye on the nuts as they may be done sooner, depending on the strength of your oven. Make sure you transfer them to a clean sheet of wax paper or parchment paper immediately after or else they will stick to the paper it baked on. The last thing you want to do is have to peel the parchment paper off of sugared pecans.
Although this is a steak salad, you can substitute the meat for chicken, pork, shrimp, or even tempeh. You can also choose a different cut of steak if rib-eye is not for you. Since it's chillier outside, cook the steaks on the stove instead or on a grill pan.
Plate the cinnamon chile spiced steak kale salad and enjoy! You can also prepare the ingredients and throw the salad together later in the week. I absolutely loved the flavors of the salad. The cinnamon chile spices were evident throughout the entire salad from the squash to the pecans to the steak. Although all the spices are similar, every ingredient still contributed to a different flavor element and texture. All the ingredients taste wonderful separately so paired together, they sing harmony. I will definitely be revisiting this salad many times throughout the season.
For more salad inspiration check out this ultimate Mediterranean salad!