I’ve caught the kale bug. As more and more kale varities become available at grocery stores everywhere, so do more recipes emerge making delicious use of this superfood. Kale is packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. WebMD calls it the ‘queen of greens’ and is a true cancer-fighter. If you’re not familiar, read more on the benefits of kale here. As with most leafy greens like kale, swiss chard, escarole, and spinach, people tend to cook them to soften their texture and serve alongside a protein and starch on their dinner plate. Trouble there is that some of the vitamins and nutrients are lost when cooked–leafy greens sometimes are better consumed raw or juiced. Kale has a somewhat tough and waxy texture when eaten raw. However, I’ve found that when sliced really thin, the texture is much better–and perfect for a salad.
I served this kale salad to my family in Cleveland as part of Christmas dinner, to rave reviews. What’s not to love? Leafy greens, refreshing apples, sweet and spicy pecans, and salty pancetta. Lots of crunch, lots of textures, lots of balanced flavors. This salad has so many benefits: FIBER, protein, vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants. If you’re looking for a ‘cleaner’ diet for 2012 and beyond, after omitting the pancetta, your body and tastebuds will be thanking you. I’ve made it three times since Christmas already. Note: This salad is great to prep the night before a pot luck or before hosting a larger dinner party. The veggies are sturdy enough to stay firm once chopped. Just keep all of the ingredients in separate containers before combining to serve.
Slightly adapted from Food & Wine‘s Kale & Apple Salad with Pancetta and Candied Pecans
- 2 cups pecans
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons caper brine (from a jar of capers)
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Granny Smith apples, cut into matchsticks (Note: if preparing ahead of time, store matchsticks in a 1:1 ratio of lemon juice and water. Toss to coat, cover, and chill.)
- 1 large head radicchio, shredded
- One 8-ounce bunch kale—stems discarded, leaves finely shredded
- 3 tablespoons snipped chives
- 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
- 2 ounces shaved pecorino
- Preheat the oven to 350°. In a bowl, cover the pecans with water. Transfer to a sieve and shake out the water. In another bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, cayenne and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Add the pecans and toss. Transfer to a sieve and shake off the excess coating. Arrange the pecans on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the sugar is lightly caramelized and the pecans are golden.
- Place pancetta slices on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet in the oven. Bake until cooked through and slices are crisp, approximately 10 minutes. Once cooled, gently stack the baked pancetta slices and set aside.
- Add the olive oil, vinegar, caper brine and maple syrup and season with salt and black pepper in a small glass jar. Shake to combine.
- Place the apples, radicchio, kale, chives, tarragon and pecorino in a large salad bowl and toss. Mound the salad on plates, garnish with the pecans, a pancetta slice, and serve.