“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the Earth seeking the successive autumns.”

As I mourn the end of summer, this quote from George Eliot is just what I need to remind me of how much I love the fall season. While I may not be ready for falling leaves and sweaters just yet, I can happily embrace the flavors of fall which are showcased today in my Honeycrisp, Prosciutto and Kale Autumn Salad with Maple Shallot Vinaigrette.

Kale is considered to be one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and 1 cup of this leafy green contains an impressive amount of vitamins K, A and C. It’s also a great source of calcium, folate and other important minerals and nutrients.

Chopping the leaves into bite-size pieces ensures that the kale won’t dominate the salad and also makes it easier to digest. Kale can have a rough-around-the-edges texture, and to mitigate this, I toss the chopped leaves in canola oil to moisten them and enhance their mouthfeel.

Cutting the kale leaves into small pieces enhances texture and makes this healthy green vegetable easier to digest. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Cutting the kale leaves into small pieces enhances texture and makes this healthy green vegetable easier to digest. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

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Honeycrisp apples provide the drama for this salad in flavor, texture and presentation. This local cultivar is in abundance now, and this apple has it all — sweet and sour, with a terrific, crisp texture and lovely skin color.

For maximum appeal, the apple is cut into thin slices, which is achieved by cutting the apple around the core into four pieces, and then cutting each piece into thin slices. The apple slices are placed around the salad in groups, with more slices inserted into the chopped kale.

Cut the apple into four pieces around the core, and then thinly slice each quarter. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Cut the apple into four pieces around the core, and then thinly slice each quarter. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

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Pepitas, a type of pumpkin seed, are also featured in this recipe and are given a boost of autumnal flavor by tossing them in maple syrup and ground cinnamon before roasting in the oven. Thin slices of prosciutto are roasted along with the seeds until crispy, to bring a pop of salt to the salad. You could also use pancetta or bacon, as you prefer.

For maximum flavor, pepitas are tossed with maple syrup and cinnamon and then roasted alongside thin strips of prosciutto. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
For maximum flavor, pepitas are tossed with maple syrup and cinnamon and then roasted alongside thin strips of prosciutto. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

A sprinkling of dried cranberries and feta cheese bring a punch of tang and sweetness to the salad. For this presentation, I added the cranberries last and arranged them down the center of the salad in a loose "S" shape, almost like a river. I used crumbled feta cheese, and to find the largest pieces I shook the container so that the smaller pieces would fall to the bottom.

With its wonderfully sweet essence, the Maple Shallot Vinaigrette completes the salad and ensures that all the ingredients are happy playing together. To temper the spicy bite of the shallot, before adding it to the salad I mince it and then saute it in a bit of oil until translucent.

Sauteeing the shallots in oil before mixing the dressing will temper their spicy bite. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Sauteeing the shallots in oil before mixing the dressing will temper their spicy bite. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Next, I toss the shallots with maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, crushed red pepper flakes and seasoning until combined. Then, I slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream while whisking continuously until the dressing is emulsified. You could also use a Mason jar and simply shake everything together — whatever works. Just do it because this dressing is amazing.

Beautiful, nutritious and delicious, this Honeycrisp, Prosciutto and Kale Autumn Salad with Maple Shallot Vinaigrette is the very dish I needed to remind of just how delicious autumn truly is.

This power salad features autumnal flavors like Honeycrisp apples, kale, pepitas, maple syrup and dried cranberries, and it's accented with crispy prosciutto and feta cheese. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
This power salad features autumnal flavors like Honeycrisp apples, kale, pepitas, maple syrup and dried cranberries, and it's accented with crispy prosciutto and feta cheese. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Honeycrisp, Prosciutto and Kale Autumn Salad

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Ingredients:

1/3 cup pepitas (raw or roasted)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 slices prosciutto

1 head kale (Tuscan or curly), washed, dried and chopped into bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 large Honeycrisp apple, thinly sliced

½ cup crumbled feta cheese, large pieces preferred

¼ cup dried cranberries

Maple Shallot Vinaigrette

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, toss the pepitas with olive oil, maple syrup and cinnamon. Spread the seeds out on parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Place the prosciutto flat around the pepitas. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the pepitas are fragrant and toasted, and the prosciutto is crisp.

Meanwhile, place the chopped kale in a large bowl and toss with the canola oil until all leaves are coated. Add more oil as needed. Pour half the vinaigrette over the kale and toss to combine.

To assemble the salad, decoratively arrange the apple slices in and on top of the kale, layering the slices on top in groups and stuffing other slices into the kale.

When the pepitas and prosciutto are ready, let cool for 5 minutes. Once cool, break the prosciutto in pieces and scatter around the salad, followed by the pepitas and the chunks of feta.

Trail the cranberries down the center of the dish like a river or a loose "S" shape. Drizzle the remaining dressing on top and serve.

Maple Shallot Vinaigrette

Makes: 2/3 cup

Ingredients:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 small shallot, minced

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan over medium heat until hot. Add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent, about 1 minute. Transfer shallots to a medium bowl or Mason jar with lid.

Add the maple syrup, vinegar, mustard, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Add the remaining olive oil to the syrup mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. If using a Mason jar, simply cover with the lid and shake vigorously.

Refrigerate dressing until ready to use, up to 7 days. Bring to room temperature and shake well before serving.

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.