The best way for me to keep up my vegetable intake is to make a big batch that lasts for several meals. In the wintertime, roasted vegetables fit the bill handily. But by March I’m ready for a fresher taste. Salad greens are sad this time of year, but kale – a dark leafy green related to cabbage – is fresh, hardy and actually sweeter when exposed to frost.
Unlike lettuces, kale makes a salad sturdy enough to last. This salad looked perfect all day and remained fresh after a night in the fridge. It brightened up a soup lunch, a pasta dinner, even a breakfast egg. Best of all, I felt contentedly virtuous with a pile of greens at every meal.
I love a simple ingredient list. To make this, all I need to buy is a bunch of kale. The rest – cranberries, walnuts, extra-virgin olive oil, an orange or lemon – I always have around.
Kale as a cooking vegetable – braised, stir-fried, in soups – has a long tradition in many food cultures around the world. But in recent years kale has taken on a fresh individual identity. Crispy baked kale chips, tossed with a bit of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of sea salt, burst on the food scene a couple of years ago. And raw kale salads are now very popular, made with tender, sweet winter kale.
It wasn’t long ago that the kale most people commonly saw was the grey-green ornamental kale decorating salad bars. Most often the kale in supermarkets is curly kale, with its thick stalks and broad leaves. It’s great for cooking or for kale chips.
But Tuscan kale (aka lacinato, dinosaur, black or cavalo nero), with more delicate stalks and leaves, is now more widely available. I prefer Tuscan kale for salads because the leaves are more tender.
Originally I set out to make this carrot slaw with cranberries and toasted walnuts from Serious Eats (by Jennifer Segal of yummy food blog Once Upon a Chef). But when I opened my vegetable drawer to get the carrots, I saw a lovely dark-green bunch of Tuscan kale I had bought a few days earlier.
So I made a version of Jennifer’s salad with kale instead. And even though I frequently make a lettuce-based salad like this – with cranberries, walnuts, feta and my honey-balsamic vinaigrette – the earthy kale and fresh citrus make this salad entirely different.
Start by slicing the kale leaves thinly. I’m lazy with Tuscan kale and leave the stems in.
Use a big bowl. Unlike spinach or lettuce, kale doesn’t wilt down.
Squeeze some lemon and/or orange. If you orange is sweet, mix in some lemon. I used up some clementines that my kids found too sour.
Toss shredded kale with extra-virgin olive oil, citrus juice and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Add cranberries and toasted walnuts.
For variation, you can add whatever cheese you have on hand. Here I added a few slivers of Pecorino Romano, but I could just have happily had Parmesan or aged cheddar.
Kale Salad with Cranberries and Toasted Walnuts
A hearty, sturdy salad that will last all day and satisfy with every meal.
- 1 bunch kale, preferably Tuscan (aka lacinato, dinosaur, black, cavalo nero)
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice from one lemon (about 2 tablespoons) or one tart orange (about 4 tablespoons) or a combination of the two
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
- To toast walnuts, bake at 325 degrees or warm on medium heat in dry skillet until they become crisp and fragrant (about 10 minutes in oven or 5 minutes on stovetop).
- Wash and dry kale. Use sharp knife to cut the stem away from each leaf. Slice leaves thinly crosswise and pile in large salad bowl.
- Drizzle olive oil over kale and toss. Drizzle in citrus juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss and taste for seasoning.
- Add cranberries and toasted walnuts and serve. Or if not eating full salad right away, toss kale with cranberries and sprinkle walnuts on individual servings.
- For extra flavor, zest the citrus before juicing and add to salad.
- Salad keeps well for a day or two in the refrigerator.
- Add slivers of sharp cheese for variation, eg Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, aged cheddar.
Here’s the link to a printable version.