1 med. sized butternut squash
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t paprika
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t fine sea salt
2 T olive oil
Maple Bourbon Vinaigrette
1/4 cup bourbon
2 1/2 T pure maple syrup
2 1/2 T apple cider vinegar
1 t Dijon mustard
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
1/4 cup almonds
4 strips good-quality bacon
1 large bunch of kale, tough stems discarded, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 6 cups)
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, plus additional to taste
2 large Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1Roast the squash: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. Peel the squash, scoop out the seeds, and cut it into 1/2 inch cubes. In a bowl, toss the squash with the spices and oil. Spread it on the baking sheet and roast until it is golden and tender, about 20 minutes. Flip the squash halfway through cooking.
2Make the dressing: In a small saucepan over med. heat, bring the bourbon to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook until it is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in the maple syrup and apple cider vinegar. Continue to cook the dressing over low heat for about 2 minutes longer. Remove it from the heat and whisk in the mustard, oil, and a pinch of salt.
3Prepare the salad: In a small dry skillet over med. heat, lightly toast the almonds until they're golden, about 3 minutes. When they're cool enough to handle, roughly chop them.
4In a large frying pan, cook the bacon until it's crisp. Place it on paper towels to drain. When it's cool enough to handle, chop it into bite-sized pieces.
5In a large bowl, toss the kale with 1 to 2 T of the warm bourbon dressing until it's lightly coated. Use your hands to massage the dressing into the kale until the leaves are tender and bright green. Add the squash, bacon, almonds, blue cheese, and dates. Drizzle on more dressing, tossing evenly to coat. Sprinkle the salad with salt and pepper to taste and divide it among the plates. Top it with additional cheese if desired.