There is a salad for every season. Spring salads are fresh and delicate, a tumble of baby leaves, new shoots and springy buds. Summer brings vibrant salads that are juicy, sunny and refreshing. Fall leans into the cooler weather and hunkers down with heft and substance. Each salad has a place at the seasonal table, celebrating the timely bounty and satisfying our cravings.
This salad is an unabashed fall salad. It brims with a mountain of kale leaves mingling with almonds, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds, bound together by a robust balsamic vinaigrette. Some may turn up their nose at raw kale, but there is a solution for that: The key is to tame the cruciferous leaves by rubbing them. Call it a massage, if you like, but it’s not as high-maintenance as it may sound. Using your fingers, toss the leaves, while rubbing to coat them with a little olive oil, lemon juice and salt. This exercise softens the sturdy texture and earthy flavor of the leaves without wilting or bruising them. You can do this step hours in advance of assembling the salad, and the leaves will remain fresh in the refrigerator without wilting, making it a perfect salad for entertaining.
In this recipe, I used a mix of Tuscan (Lacinato) kale and curly green kale, but one type will suffice. Use this recipe as a template and incorporate your favorite hearty leaves, nuts, dried fruit and seeds. Walnuts and pecans can be substituted for the almonds. Golden raisins can be used in place of the cranberries. Or add sunflower seeds in place of the pepitas. For a more substantial salad, sprinkle 3 to 4 tablespoons of cooked quinoa into the salad to get an extra protein boost. It’s growing colder outside, after all, so any extra fortification is welcome.
Kale Salad With Almonds, Cranberries and Pepitas
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 large bunch curly green or Lacinato kale, tough ribs removed, leaves torn in bite-sized pieces
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 small head red cabbage, cored, shredded
- 1 to 2 carrots, thinly sliced
- 2 scallions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds
- 2 tablespoons pepitas
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
1. Place the kale in a large serving bowl. Drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over and sprinkle the salt. Rub the oil, lemon juice and salt into the leaves for 1 minute to coat and slightly soften. (The kale may be prepped in advance to this point. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 hours before serving.)
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients, except the oil, in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking to emulsify.
3. Add the cabbage, carrots, scallions, cranberries, almonds and pepitas to the kale. Gently toss with some or all of the dressing to your taste.
Lynda Balslev is an award-winning food and wine writer, cookbook author and recipe developer. She also authors the blog TasteFood, a compilation of more than 600 original recipes, photos and stories.