This winter kale salad is chock-full of apples, avocado, dates, dried cranberries, toasted pecans and crumbled blue cheese. It’s tossed with a honey balsamic dressing to create a sweet, crunchy, incredibly satisfying side dish.
Food trends are an interesting thing. For whatever reason, something will just take off and you see it EVERYWHERE. – restaurant menus, cookbooks, and of course, food blogs. We’ve seen the not so healthy trends – think cupcakes, cronuts, and bacon. Thankfully, some items from the healthier end of the spectrum have also hit the big time in recent years. One of my favorite ingredients of all time, Greek yogurt, has become wildly popular. Hummus had a heyday. And, kale has become nearly as common as iceburg lettuce was in the 70’s. I didn’t immediately jump on the kale bandwagon but over time I have become a believer. An honest to goodness kale lover.
I’ve always loved it cooked into soups and stews (I recently cooked it into a delicious Sausage and Tortellini Soup with Kale) but my feelings about the dark, leafy green grew exponentially when I had my first kale salad a couple of years ago. In addition to being delicious, it’s packed with an incredible amount of fiber to make you feel full and satisfied and is loaded with nutrients.
My best inspiration for new salad recipes comes from cruising through the aisles of a local, independently owned produce market. On a recent trip, I couldn’t pass by the great big piles of lacinto kale without grabbing some. The other items that ended up in my basket were big, beautiful avocados, pretty Jonagold apples, and dates. Along with a few other ingredients I had in my pantry, this winter season salad was born.
You can use any variety of kale you’d like but for this salad I recommend lacinto kale, sometimes referred to as Tuscan or dinosaur kale. It has a flatter leaf than it’s curly cousin and a deep, dark, bluish tint.
The first task at hand when working with kale is to de-stem it. There are a couple of ways to go about this. You can use a knife to slice down either side of the stem to remove it.
Or, you can use this method to pull the stem out without the use of a knife. Use your fingers to separate the kale leaves from the bottom of the stem.
With one hold hand the bottom of the stem, use your fingers on your other hand to pull the leaves up the stem.
The leaves will easily pull up and right off…
… leaving the stem behind. This is a easy, fast method if you’ve got a lot of kale to de-stem.
I de-stemmed this entire bunch of kale in just a couple of minutes.
Finely chop the kale, a handful at a time, and then give it a rinse and spin in your salad spinner (or alternately, rinse and drain it very well).
Transfer the squeaky clean chopped kale to a large mixing bowl.
Raw kale is a tough bugger and needs a vinegar or citrus based dressing to help break down the fibers and soften it a bit. Add the dressing and toss it well to be sure that all of the kale is coated and then we’ll let it sit and do it’s thing while we work on the rest of the ingredients. This Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette is a snap to put together and is a perfect compliment to all the flavors in this salad (see the printable recipe below for all the details).
To the dressed kale add the chopped apple, avocado, dried cranberries, and chopped dates.
Sprinkle the salad with blue cheese crumbles and toasted pecans to finish it off.
Winter Kale Chopped Salad
- 1 bunch lacinto Tuscan kale, de-stemmed and chopped (approximately 6 cups)
- ⅓ cup pecans
- 1 small apple, chopped
- 1 avocado, chopped
- 4 dates, pitted and chopped
- ¼ dried cranberries
- ¼ cup blue cheese crumbles
Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette:
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Rinse, drain (or spin in salad spinner) the chopped kale. Place it in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- To make the dressing – Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, honey, Dijon, and garlic. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and continue to whisk until slightly thickened and emulsified. Season to taste with pepper. The dressing can be quickly and easily made in a food processor. Just add all the ingredients and process for a minute or two until creamy.
- Pour the dressing over the kale and toss well to be sure all of the kale has been coated. Set aside so dressing can begin to break down and soften the kale while you work on remaining ingredients.
- Place pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 4 to 5 minutes or until nicely toasted. Transfer pecans to a cutting board and coarsely chop and set aside to cool completely.
- Add chopped apple, avocado, dates, and dried cranberries to the dressed kale and toss to combine. Sprinkle salad with toasted pecans and blue cheese and serve.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.