This kale salad is a delicious marriage between delicate ribbons of robust and flavourful kale, chunks of sweet juicy pear, tart chewy cranberries, and nutty pops of crunchy sesame seeds. (Skip to recipe.)
Most of our garden is looking pretty sad and spent, but the kale is hanging in there with glorious gusto.
It's standing tall and bright and vibrantly green. Those crinkly leaves have not let cantankerous old Mother Nature get the best of them. An early September snowstorm and several killing frosts did nothing but strengthen its resolve to be more vigourously green and 'kaley' than ever.
Kale's got spunk.
And that spunk translates to some wonderful robust salads. Raymond's favourite salad is kale, and I make many different versions, but this simple fruity one is a regular in the kale-salad-rotation.
I have found two little tricks that really make my kale salads shine: I cut the kale into fine grass-like ribbons, and massage the heck out of it with oil before adding the dressing and other ingredients. The massaging process softens the kale, but doesn't take away its texture - just makes it much easier to eat than trying to chow down on big leathery chunks of leaves. Try it this way and you may make kale-lovers out of your family, too. (Or try light and crispy kale chips!)
The heft and strong flavour of über-healthy kale is balanced beautifully with the tang of dried cranberries and juicy pears. Toasted sesame seeds add a lovely crunch, and red onions add the zip. . .
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Kitchen Frau Notes: I like to prepare my kale ahead of time and have it ready in the fridge, especially when using garden kale because it can have a bit of dirt or friendly little critters hiding in the leaves. I tear the leaves off the the thick central stems, then submerge them in a sink of cold water and swish them around well. Store-bought kale can usually just be rinsed well under cold running water, then torn off the stems. I shake off the excess water, then lay the torn leaves in a roughly single layer onto a clean dry tea towel. I roll up the towel tightly, then put it into a plastic bag in the fridge overnight. The towel absorbs much of the water off the kale, and it doesn't need much drying.
To toast sesame seeds, place them in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often. In 5 to 10 minutes they should be turning golden brown and fragrant. You can also buy ready-toasted sesame seeds at most bulk food stores.
This is the place to use one of those lovely, nutty, specialty oils you've been saving, since kale's robust flavour stands up well to a strong-flavoured oil. If not, a good extra-virgin olive oil will also do well here.
Kale Salad with Cranberries and Pears
- 1 bunch kale (5 - 6 large leaves)
- 3 tablespoons walnut or hazelnut oil (or a good extra-virgin olive oil)
- ¼ of a small red onion (about ¼ cup thinly sliced)
- ¼ cup (35gms) dried cranberries
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 1 pear
- 1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- a sprinkling of coarse ground pepper
Tear the kale leaves from the coarse middle stems. Wash them and pat them dry, or spin in a salad spinner (or dry in a tea towel overnight as in the Notes, above).
Stack a handful of torn kale leaves on top of each other and roll up into a cylinder. With a sharp knife, chiffonade them - which is a fancy word for cutting them in very thin slices to form ribbons.
Place the chiffonade of kale into a large wide bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Get the bottle of dish soap out onto the counter, or have a sink with soapy water ready, because once you have oily, kale-speckled hands you don't want to be decorating your cupboard knobs with them.
Now comes the fun part! With your hands, massage the oil into the kale. Really get into it - rub it and roll it between your hands. Make it feel good. Your kale will thank you. It'll become lovely and limber (kale won't get all wilty on you like regular lettuce would) and much easier to eat.
Now go wash your grubby green hands.
Slice the onion very thinly - paper thin slices are what you're after. If you have a mandoline, it'll make it easy, but a sharp knife works, too.
Add the onions, cranberries and sesame seeds to the kale.
Dice the pear into roughly half-inch (1.5cm) cubes and add them to the bowl.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad ingredients, and toss well to coat everything - go ahead and use salad tongs this time!
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