I can only speak for myself here but my pants seem to be fitting just a tad snug. While it may be because the dryer is shrinking my clothes I suspect it probably has more to do with what I chose to sustain myself on over the holidays. Sigh. Fudge and Chex Mix aren’t super compatible with the trim physique I’m after and so, alas, I’ve returned to my pre-holiday eating habits. The good news is that even healthy eating habits can feel indulgent. My Warm Winter Salad with Orange Maple Bourbon Vinaigrette is proof. We dreamed this up on the way to the grocery store last week and I’m happy to report that it exceeded my expectations. I suspected that returning to healthy eating would feel disappointing after cheat eating for so many weeks but this salad came to the rescue big time.
Built atop a bed of fresh kale, this dish packs a powerful, immune-boosting punch. Roasted butternut squash and shredded Brussels Sprouts add extra doses of vitamins while I sneak in a little bit of bacon and wild rice for satisfying flavor. Pomegranate tendrils brighten things up while pepitas and sliced almonds deliver crunch. I also oped for feta because a salad isn’t really a salad without cheese, right?
While all the flavors play nicely together in the bowl, the secret to the success of my Warm Winter Salad with Orange Maple Bourbon Vinaigrette is something less expected: the temperature. When you pile freshly-roasted butternut squash and steamy wild rice on the bed of kale and drizzle so flavorful a dressing atop the whole thing, something almost magical happens. The kale softens a bit and all the flavors mix and mingle and dive just a bit deeper. I’m here to tell you that if you’ve never tried a warm salad, you’re missing out on a unique taste bud sensation.
Can we talk about this vinaigrette for a second? Because, as you may have noted, it’s orange and maple and bourbon. There’s some other stuff in there, too, but only to accentuate the orange, maple and bourbon. The vinaigrette practically melts into the warm roasted squash and wild rice. It’s so flavorful. Every bite is dang near perfect. And so pretty, too.
We enjoyed this Warm Winter Salad with Orange Maple Bourbon Vinaigrette as a stand alone main meal. When it’s served as pictured above, it’s quite an impressive dish. If you’re hosting a dinner party, you might consider premixing it and serving it during the salad course. I can’t decide whether the sectioned off presentation or the premixed presentation makes for a prettier plate.
Not that it matters which way you serve it. It tastes delicious either way. You almost won’t miss the holiday calorie splurge. Almost.
For the vinaigrette
- zest of 1/2 an orange
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 large shallot
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
- 3 tablespoons orange juice
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
For the salad
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cups butternut squash, medium dice
- 1 1/2 cups dry wild rice mix
- 12 oz. Brussels Sprouts
- 2 cups feta
- 1 head fresh kale
- 1 cup pomegranate tendrils
- 1 cup roasted pepitas
- 1 cup sliced roasted almonds
- 8 slices bacon
To prepare the vinaigrette:
- Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until the shallot is finely chopped and all the ingredients are well mixed. Alternatively, you can place all the ingredients in a Mason jar and use an immersion blender to combine.
- Set the vinaigrette aside while you prepare the salad.
To prepare the salad:
- Preheat the oven to 400º.
- Cook the rice according to package directions.
- Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the butternut squash into a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over squash and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place baking sheet on the middle rack in the oven and roast for twenty minutes, or until squash is fork tender. Remove from oven.
- While the squash roasts, fry bacon until cooked through. Drain cooked bacon on a paper towel.
- As the bacon cooks, shred the Brussels Sprouts using a food processor. Set aside.
- When bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble it into small pieces.
- Wash and shred the head of kale.
To assemble the salad:
- Evenly divide the shredded kale between six salad bowls. Working in small sections, add equal amounts of bacon, feta, Brussels Sprouts, wild rice, butternut squash, almonds, pomegranate tendrils and pepitas to each bowl.
- Drizzle orange maple bacon vinaigrette atop each bowl, or serve alongside the salads.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 986Total Fat: 69gSaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 946mgFiber: 13gSugar: 14gProtein: 33g
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