Winter Salad with Kale, Squash, Apples, & Fennel

Merry Christmas Eve! Happy Holidays! Happy whenever you find yourself doing today! For me, it's "Happy Another-Excuse-To-Plan-A-Menu Day"! 

If you are looking to build a holiday menu that everyone can enjoy, regardless of dietary preferences, you know my struggle well: what is paleo, vegan, and still filling? Salad is the easy answer. But it's so hard to make salad feel "right" in the middle of winter. Tomatoes? Hard and flavorless. Cucumbers? Chilling. Butterhead lettuce, arugula, even baby spinach--just plain out of place. It's easier to pass by with gratins, mashes, and roasts. And don't get me wrong--I love anything au gratin (especially this cauliflower gruyere gratin!) - but sometimes it's nice to have a light dish on your holiday table, to balance out all of the traditional winter fare.

That very question brought me to this salad. (Now, before you say, "Salad is NOT filling," hear me out). This salad, with massaged dino kale, is stuffed with wintery goods that will fill you up: roasted delicata squash, toasted pepitas, and fennel, and crispy apples. Avocado for good measure — because what salad isn’t better with avocado? It has crunch, a touch of sweetness, and a savory kick. And it fits right in on a crowded table of wintertime foods. And if you're still not content, I recommend adding some shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. 

Drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette, this salad breaks away from the heavy dishes we all know so well, with out feeling out of place. It's a piece of fresh in the midst of winter--often a much needed twist. Since this salad is made with hearty vegetables, it can be made several hours ahead of time, making your holiday meal less stressful! Just wait until the last minute to add the dressing. 

What new dish will you be trying this holiday season? How do you make sure everyone is jolly when they take their seat at the holiday table? 

P.S., that delicate looking garnish is a fennel frond — the top "leafy bit of the fennel bulb. Save a tiny bit when you’re chopping up the fennel, and put it on top for good looks. 😎

Winter Salad with Kale, Squash, Apples & Fennel

Winter Salad with Kale, Squash, Apples, & Fennel

Published December 24, 2014 by
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Serves: 8   |    Active Time: 35 minutes


  • 1 delicata squash, seeds removed and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 6 cups kale, chopped into bit-sized pieces
  • Dash salt
  • Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup fennel, sliced thin
  • 1 apple, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 avocado, sliced or cubed
  • Balsamic vinaigrette  

  • Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Toss the sliced squash in the avocado oil. Spread it out on a cookie sheet, and place in oven. Bake until golden, soft all the way through, and browning on edges. Remove from oven and set aside. 
    2. Assemble salad: Place the chopped kale in a salad bowl, along with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt. Using your hands, rub the olive oil into the leaves until they are bright green. This softens them a bit, making them nicer to eat and easier to digest.
    3. Add the fennel and apple to the salad bowl. Top with roasted squash, avocado, and pepitas. Serve with balsamic vinaigrette to taste. Optional: garnish with fennel fronds.