Full disclosure: I never really got on board the Kale Train.
I get that it’s super healthy and some kind of hip wonderfood, but I was always kind of unimpressed with it. It was too chewy or bitter or prickly or just plain not tasty. I even tried to sneak it into foods- pantry pastas and other things that could use an infusion of sturdy greens. Nah, it was bad. I tried. It sucked.
I finally warmed to the trendy green this summer when my mother-in-law grew it in her garden. Picked fresh and young, her kale salads were tender and delicious, I couldn’t get enough! Kale and I were finally friends.
Of course, the stuff at the grocery store was not tender or sweet. The trick to preparing the older, thicker kale available by the bunch (as I’m sure everyone but me already knows) is to chop it fine, and then, if you want to really up the ante, massage it. Like, literally. Give it a gentle rub-a-rub.
The second trick to mastering an epic kale salad, is to give it a really bold, tasty dressing. Kale is a tougher green so it will stand up to heavy or even warm dressings without getting droopy. Using fresh bacon fat (cut with olive oil to lower the temperature in which is congeals), warm from the pan, does beautiful things to this salad. A good hit of red wine vinegar adds much needed acidity so the smokiness doesn’t bog the whole thing down.
A touch of maple syrup for sweetness, caper brine (literally, the juice from a jar of capers) for salt, and fresh herbs to send the whole thing into what Guy Fieri might call the Flavour Stratosphere (ha! Kidding. Fieri’s not going to eat kale.)
I have been making this salad at least once a week since mid-September. Consider me an official Kale Convert.
|Kale Salad with Bacon, Apple & Fresh Herbs|| |
- ½ cup walnuts
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 4 slices Applewood smoked bacon, chopped
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp caper brine (from a jar of capers)
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaved finely chopped
- 2 large apples, cored and thinly chopped or julienned
- 3 Tbsp chives, chopped
- 1 Tbsp tarragon, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat. Place walnuts in a small bowl, fill with water and then drain the water out. Add sugar and salt and toss with wet walnuts to coat well. Bake for 10 minutes until browned and toasted.
- Heat a skillet over med-high heat and add bacon and olive oil- the olive oil seems excessive, but this will help form the base for your vinaigrette (using bacon alone works, but the fat congeals in the dressing, creating a somewhat unpleasant texture). Cook until crispy, then remove bacon from pan and set aside. Pour bacon fat and oil into a small bowl and add vinegar, caper brine, maple syrup and a good ground of black pepper. Whisk together well.
- In a large serving bowl, combine apple, kale, chives and tarragon. Pour vinaigrette over top and toss to coat. Sprinkle bacon and toasted walnuts on the dressed salad to serve.