I just walked into my closet, tugged on the little string that dangles from the ceiling for light and counted fourteen pairs of boots. Fourteen pairs. That’s twenty-eight individual boots. Most are black, a few pairs have heels, one pair of riding boots covers my knees, and all but the rain boots are made of leather. Needless to say, I love boots. They are my footwear of choice in the cold weather months and I will never have enough of them. At this rate, they will soon require a closet of their own.
I harbor the same deep affection for kale salads. Kale salads make me happy. They are a staple in my diet in the same way that boots are a staple in my wardrobe and I will never tire of them. Kale salads, I tell you, are the answer to all sorts of problems. Too hot outside to cook anything? Kale salad. Tight jeans? Kale salad. Feeling sickly? Kale salad. Hung over? Wanna eat all your troubles away? Kale salad. Don’t know what to bring to a potluck with paleo, gluten-free and vegetarian attendees? Put on your best announcer’s voice and shout, “kaaaale salaaaaaaaad!”
There are a few tricks to making a kale salad taste really great, which I’ve elaborated on here. Every time I’ve heard from a real-life friend or commenter that one of my kale salad recipes turned them on to kale salads in general, I’m thrilled.
This salad is the fourth kale salad to appear on my blog and surely not the last. It’s hearty and holiday worthy, full of crunch from crisp apple, radish and pecans, studded with sweet, ruby red cranberries and tangy crumbled goat cheese, and tossed in a zippy honey mustard dressing. What’s not to love?
The recipe came from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman, from which many more recipes are to come. I would imagine that if you’ve found your way to this food blog, then surely you are familiar with Smitten Kitchen. Deb’s blog is, simply stated, the best. Honestly, I sometimes wonder why anyone (myself wholly included) bothers with food blogging when Deb has so clearly mastered the medium. Her writing is captivating and witty. Her recipes are unfailingly stellar in both concept and execution. Her photos make you want to quit whatever it is that you’re supposed to be doing when you find yourself drooling at her blog and hop into the kitchen immediately.
I had been eagerly awaiting the release of her cookbook for months and now that I have my own copy resting on my coffee table, I can say that it is magnificent. Every recipe has been meticulously tested and illustrated in photographs by Deb herself, and Deb never lets you down. If you like to cook, you are going to want this cookbook. If you’re not sure what to buy as gifts this holiday season, make it this cookbook. Seriously. Did I mention that she has a full vegetarian section and 90 pages of desserts in there?
I made a few alterations to Deb’s recipe, given the season and what I had in stock in my pantry. I added a chopped Granny Smith apple and traded dried cranberries for the dried cherries. I also used apple cider vinegar instead of white wine vinegar, though I’m not sure I can really taste the difference in the end result. I’m making this salad again this evening for girls’ night with Downton Abbey and will be making it again for my family’s Thanksgiving. It’s a winner.
- ½ cup pecans
- 8 ounces kale (I used regular curly green kale, but Deb recommends Cavolo Nero or Lacinato, Dinosaur or Tuscan Kale)
- 4 to 5 medium radishes
- ½ cup dried cranberries (or dried cherries)
- 1 medium Granny Smith apple
- 2 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
- 1½ teaspoons honey
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread the pecans on a baking tray. Toast them until lightly golden and fragrant, about 5 to 10 minutes, tossing them once or twice to make sure they bake evenly. Remove the tray from the oven and set them aside to cool.
- Pull the kale leaves off from the tough stems and discard the stems. Use a chef’s knife to chop the kale into small, bite-sized pieces. Transfer the kale to a big salad bowl. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the kale and massage the leaves with your hands by lightly scrunching big handfuls at a time, until the leaves are darker in color and fragrant.
- Thinly slice the radishes (this is easier to do if you first chop off the root end so you can place the base of the radish flat against your cutting board). Add them to the bowl.
- Coarsely chop the pecans and cranberries (or cherries) and add them to the bowl. Chop the apple into small, bite-sized pieces and add it to the bowl as well. Crumble the goat cheese over the top.
- In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss until the salad is evenly coated with dressing. Serve immediately, or for even better flavor, let the salad marinate in the dressing for 10 to 20 minutes beforehand.
Make it vegan: Omit the goat cheese, and use agave nectar instead of the honey for the dressing.