In the not-too-distant past, I thought kale was something that only appealed to health food enthusiasts. Touted as the latest superfood, it sounded much too Fru-Fru for my iceberg lettuce roots.
Boy, was I wrong!
Kale is now one of my favorite greens. It is healthy, hearty, and delicious when prepared correctly. My kids can’t get enough of this green beauty when I toss it with a little olive oil and salt and bake to crispy perfection. Seriously, that is one of the easiest and most nutritious snacks out there, and they gobble up an entire pan in about one minute.
I also love to throw chopped kale in soups and stews because it adds a little earthiness to the flavor and is packed full of nutrition. But one of my favorite ways to use this versatile vegetable is in salads.
Looking at the large and somewhat tough leaves, you might be a little intimidated. Have no fear; I will walk you through how to quickly create a culinary masterpiece with this green gem.
Seeing as fall is in full swing in most of the country (we Arizona folks tend to lag behind the autumn curve), I have chosen to incorporate an array of fall flavors into this scrumptious salad: apples, pears, grapes, pumpkin seeds, and a creamy apple dressing. You could easily add some grilled chicken if you want to make it a full meal.
The first thing you need to understand about kale is that the thick woody stem in the middle of each leaf is not edible. You must cut the leaves from their stems, which is a pretty straightforward process. Simply lay your leaf on a cutting board and slide the tip of your knife right down each side of the stem, effectively separating the leaf from the stem.
Then toss that stem right into the trash and finely chop the leaves. Since kale is naturally tough in comparison to other greens, the finer you chop it, the better it will taste in a salad. Big chunks of kale are not very appetizing. Once cut, throw those gorgeous greens into a salad spinner to get rid of the excess water. That will allow the dressing to adhere better to the leaves.
With washed, chopped, and dried kale, you are now ready to add diced apples and pears, along with halved grapes. You can use any variety of those fruits, but I prefer Honeycrisp apples, Bartlett pears, and red or black grapes (for color).
If you do not want your apples and pears to turn brown, you can mix them with anything acidic. Citrus juices work well (lemon, lime, orange), as does pineapple juice. Usually, I toss mine with about 1/4 cup of water mixed with 1/4-1/2 tsp. of Vitamin C crystals that I purchased inexpensively at Trader Joe’s. It keeps them from browning for days and does not have a strong flavor like citrus juices.
Now let’s talk about quinoa for a minute. Although it is easy to prepare and quite nutritious, you must rinse it well first. If you don’t, it will taste bitter. A fine mesh strainer works awesome for that purpose. Also, it cooks up nicely in a rice cooker if you want to avoid the stove. Just make sure it is cool before putting it in your salad.
Once you combine your cooled quinoa with your kale and fruit mixture, you are ready to make your dressing. It is super easy, friends. Just throw all of the ingredients into your blender and blend until smooth. Once again, you can use any variety of apple for the dressing. I prefer one with a red skin because it leaves beautiful red flecks in the finished product, but any kind will taste awesome.
Now pour that lovely dressing on top of your greens and mix well. Finish with pumpkin seeds and feta cheese, and you will have a sweet, crunchy, and delicious salad. It tastes best served immediately but will keep fairly well for a day or two in the fridge.
If you are looking for a tasty way to incorporate some nutrient-rich kale into your diet, you must give this recipe a try. I hope you love it as much as I do.
Kale and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Apple Dressing
Yield 4 servings
A nutrient-rich and delicious salad that is packed full of fall flavors.
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 1/2 cups red or black grapes, halved
- 1 apple, any variety, diced
- 1 pear, any variety, diced
- 1 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 small to medium apple, cored and roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon green onions, chopped
- Separate kale leaves from woody stems and finely chop leaves. Spin chopped leaves in a salad spinner to remove excess water, then place them in a large salad bowl.
- Add diced apples and pears, along with halved grapes and cooked (and cooled) quinoa.
- Put all ingredients for the dressing in a blender and blend on low speed until smooth.
- Right before serving, pour dressing over salad and toss well. Top with pumpkin seeds and feta.
Yield: Two large servings, four medium-sized ones, or 8-10 smaller helpings.
(Dressing adapted from this Creamy Apple Vinaigrette recipe)