What do you say we take a small time-out before the holiday food frenzy and be good to ourselves in a healthy, but delicious way? I see my friend Rebecca every few weeks, and after catching up on family stuff, we usually jump right in to recipe ideas. Rebecca is a serious Pinterest explorer, and one day she started telling me about this great massaged kale salad she was experimenting with. I just had to try the concept, to see how this attempt to tame the savage beast we know as kale could be possible. Sound weird? It’s not – really. Massaging kale that has been sprinkled with salt helps it to release moisture and also seasons it, which means improved flavor. This results in a lot less bitterness and a more tender texture, which is very helpful for those of us who can find kale to be challenging to embrace as the nutritional powerhouse that it is. We add some sweetness too – we’ll be roasting some rings of Delicata Squash to add to the top. Delicata is not only delicious, but is a dream for lazy cooks like myself. It’s so tender you can even eat the peel – no kidding! But wait…. As good as this was, the salad just needed a little something more, so you’ll find plenty of crumbled Smoked Gouda cheese. Finally, the whole thing is topped off with a Fig Balsamic Dressing for a sweet and savory kick. Now we’ve got ourselves a serious salad we can feel good about eating.
If you are not a big fan of kale, this could change your outlook. Our sneaky little trick of cutting it into ribbons, then massaging with salt for a couple of minutes changes how it looks and how it tastes. However, kale is only our base, and we must march on to add even more healthy and exciting things to this guy. Here are a couple of ideas: I added a two different kinds of dried fruits; both cranberries and apricots. They add a nice chewiness to the salad and a subtle sweetness that is helpful to the slight bitter undertones of the kale. Green onion, of course, to add to the savory side. And then for more sweetness, I cut a Delicate Squash into rings, hollowed them out with a melon baller (or sharp spoon works too), and roasted them till tender with some agave and a pinch of salt. Heap them on!!
OK, I couldn’t help myself. I had some fresh figs…for another big old bite of sweetness. This also compliments the fig vinaigrette that everything gets tossed in before serving.
But something was still missing….hmmmm. I needed a bridge between the sweet stuff on the plate and the slight bitterness of the cheese. What would it be? I know – cheese!! Smoked Gouda to the rescue. I chose not to be stingy because I was feeling so self-righteous about the rest of the ingredients.
This is a good one, and lasts for at least three days in the fridge. Hope you enjoy, and thanks so much for reading today!! xoxoxo
- FOR THE SALAD
- Approximately 2 bunches of curly kale, washed, stems removed, and cut into ¼ inch ribbons
- 1-tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 or 2 Delicata Squash
- Approximately 2 tablespoons Agave or honey
- About ¾ teaspoon salt for sprinkling on squash
- Approximately ½ cup dried cranberries (or to taste)
- Approximately ½ cut dried apricots that have been cut into ¼ inch strips (or to taste)
- 3-4 green onions, sliced on the bias
- ¼ pound Smoked Gouda cheese, crumbled into large crumbles (or more if you like)
- FOR THE DRESSING
- 1-cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar, or other fruity balsamic vinegar
- 1 heaping tablespoon fig jam, or other deep colored berry jam or jelly
- Salt and pepper to taste
- FOR THE SALAD
- Wash the kale, remove the stems, and cut into ¼ inch ribbons
- Place kale into a large bowl or clean sink, and sprinkle with salt.
- Massage the kale, using both hands, for two minutes. The color of the kale will begin to darken and the texture will soften.
- Rinse thoroughly with cold water and spin in a salad spinner to dry or pat dry between paper towels or clean cotton dishtowels. Set aside.
- Slice the Delicata Squash into about ½ or ¾ inch rings. Using a melon baller or sharp spoon, scoop out the seeds. Place the squash rings on a baking sheet that has been lined with aluminum foil and liberally sprayed with cooking spray. Drizzle the squash with a little salt and agave or honey. Roast at 350 degrees until the squash is tender when pierced with a sharp knife - start checking at 20 minutes. When squash has cooled to warm, remove from foil and place on a plate or in a glass-baking dish to hold until ready to use. If you wait too long, the squash has a nasty habit of wanting to stick to the foil, which is challenging to say the least, but usually just wants to make me start cussing.
- Cut the dried apricots into ¼ inch slivers. Set aside.
- Crumble the Smoked Gouda into big crumbles. Set aside.
- FOR THE DRESSING
- Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fig jam, and salt & pepper into a small bowl. Shake vigorously until dressing is blended together. You can also use an immersion blender to combine the ingredients if you want.
- TO ASSEMBLE
- Arrange the kale on a platter, and sprinkle with green onions, and dried fruits. Add Delicata Squash rings and Smoked Gouda to the top. Drizzle with dressing and serve.
- OR…mix the kale, dried fruit, and green onion together in a bowl. Set the Delicata rings, cheese, and dressing on the side and let everybody help themselves.