By: Leah Golden, MS, RD

A salad in the cold Winter months you say?! Yes, even during these Winter months when temperatures are cooler, salads can still make an appearance at your dinner party or holiday meal. Fresh and local ingredients tend to cater to the temperature changes of the season.  This salad is full of local and seasonal vegetables that will keep you nourished, warm your body and enlighten your taste buds. There’s no going wrong with butternut squash, persimmons, toasty walnuts and cranberries. They’re all wonderful winter flavors that your palate will thank you for.

The base of this Winter salad is made up of kale, a dark leafy green that gets a lot of hype for being very nutritious. Hype for a reason! Kale is part of the cruciferous family (including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) and is packed with vitamins and minerals (A, K, C and calcium to name a few), and antioxidants like quercetin. Antioxidants are known to help reduce cell damage caused by oxidative damage by free radicals in the body.  Reducing oxidative damage is thought to help ward off disease and aging. I’m in, so bring on the kale.

To make the kale more tender and less bitter, give those leaves a little massage. After you destem and slice the kale, put in a medium bowl and sprinkle the leaves with salt. Massage the greens with your bare hands for a few minutes. This will draw some of the excess water out and reduce some of the bitterness. This is a great preparation method for kale and will appeal to more people than in the simple raw form.

Adding the roasted butternut squash, permission and toasted walnuts complement the kale nicely.  The cranberry vinaigrette is tart and fresh. If you want the dressing to be sweeter blend in more fresh dates and if you want more tartness, add more fresh cranberries. It’s great either way!

I love how the vegetables and fruits change seasonally and compliment the shifting temperatures.  This hearty salad can be served alone or alongside a lean protein, like fish or chicken or add pan- fried tempeh for a vegetarian option.  Toss the protein in the salad or have it on the side. This is also a great salad to serve at a holiday meal or dinner potluck. A great way to highlight the seasonal produce of the wintertime. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Happy Holidays!


Kale, Butternut Squash and Persimmon Salad with a Cranberry Vinaigrette

If you want to add something festive and healthy to your holiday spread, give this Winter salad a try! It’s filled with seasonal produce you can grab at the farmers market! These vegetables will keep you nourished, warm your body and enlighten your taste buds.  There is no going wrong with butternut squash, persimmons and cranberry. They are all wonderful Winter flavors that your palate will thank you for.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30-45 minutes

Total time: 45- 60 minutes

Author: Leah Golden, MS, RD

Recipe type: Salad, Dinner, Lunch

Cuisine: Vegan, Gluten-free

Serves: 6 servings    


  • 2 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ~2 ½ cup farro (cook according to package directions, about 1 cup uncooked farro)
  • 10 oz dinosaur or curly green kale, chopped (stems removed)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup walnuts, toasted
  • 3 Fuya persimmons, sliced
  • Monchego cheese, shaved over top of salad

Cranberry Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about 2 medium oranges)
  • 1.5-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½- 1 whole fresh dates
  • ½ tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put diced butternut squash on sheet pan lined with parchment paper or silicon cooking sheet.   Drizzle squash with olive oil and toss to coat. Put squash in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes or until fork tender. Once completed, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  2. While butternut squash is roasting, cook farro according to package directions. Once cooked, drain off any extra water and take off the burner to cool.
  3. To prepare kale, begin by removing stems. Fold each leaf in half and cut the stem/rib off. Once removed, roll the leaves starting at the top. Sliced kale into thin strips. Put chopped kale in a medium bowl and sprinkle with approximately one teaspoon of salt.
  4. Massage kale and salt together with hands. Massage for two to three minutes until kale wilts. If excess liquid accumulates at the bottom, pour out.
  5. Put a single layer of walnuts on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Put in oven and roast for 5-10 minutes until the walnuts turn light brown and smell nutty.
  6. Peel fresh persimmons using a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Cut persimmon in half and slice.
  7. To make cranberry vinaigrette, combine fresh cranberries, orange juice, apple cider vinegar and olive oil in blender. Pulse until well combined. The color should be red and vibrant. Add half to one fresh date. Pulse to combine and then taste. Add ½ tsp salt and taste. Adjust salt and date content for desired sweet and saltiness.
  8. To assemble salad, combine kale, roasted butternut squash, persimmons, toasted walnuts and farro in large bowl. Pour cranberry vinaigrette on salad and toss together well.
  9. Let sit for about 10 minutes.  Serve into bowls and shave fresh monchego on top. Serve immediately.

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