If there’s a kale salad on a restaurant menu, you better believe I’m going to order it. And thanks to the PR firm hired by The American Kale Association, we can ALL eat one nearly every time we dine out. Yes, even vegetables have publicists! Who knew? The best kale salads all have one thing in common: the kale is shredded to oblivion and massaged within an inch of its life. This sweet and salty version is bright and beautiful and makes good use of some lesser-known produce like watermelon radish and gooseberries. Take my advice and double the Candied Pepitas or risk snacking through your entire stash before the salad hits the table!
½ cup raw pepitas (or sub whatever nuts or seeds you have onhand)
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
A pinch of kosher salt
Dressing: ¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salad: 1 bunch Lacinato kale (aka Tuscan Kale or Dinosaur Kale),
washed 1 watermelon radish, peeled using a vegetable peeler
1 container of gooseberries or goldenberries, halved (sub grapes if you can’t find)
½ cup dried cranberries
Heat a non-stick saute pan to medium heat and add the pepitas, seeds, sugar and kosher salt. Stir gently, watching as the sugar begins to melt.
Continue to cook, lowering the temperature if needed so the seeds don’t burn, until the sugar is fully melted.
Transfer to a piece of parchment paper or small plate to let cool completely. They will be a little soft at first and then become crunchy as they sit. Set aside until ready to use.
Dressing: Place all ingredients in a large mason jar and shake until fully emulsified. You can also do this in a mini food processor if you want a creamier look to your dressing.
Salad: Kale stems are too tough and chewy to eat, so you’ll want to remove them before making this salad. The quickest way to do this is to hold the stem firmly in one hand and gather the leaves between the thumb and forefinger of your other hand. Pull the leaves along the stem in one confident motion, applying enough pressure to strip the leaves from both sides. You can also fold the leaves lengthwise over the stem and cut the stems off at the fold if that’s easier.
After you’ve de-stemmed, chop the kale into thin, shredded strips.
Thinly slice the watermelon using a hand mandolin, or manually using a chef’s knife.
Cut each slice into thin strips. Watermelon radishes are beautiful, so be sure to save a few round slices to use as a garnish while plating.
Next, cut each gooseberry in half.
To serve, place the shredded kale on a large platter or low bowl and massage gently with your hands. This will soften the leaves and make it less fibrous and tough to eat. Toss with just enough of the dressing to coat. Having extra dressing leftover for the week is a bonus! Arrange the watermelon radish, gooseberries and dried cranberries over the top of the kale. Drizzle a little more dressing over the toppings. Finish with a generous handful or two of candied pepitas.
Jenni Benerofe is a New York-based culinary instructor, private chef, recipe tester and mom of two who is better known on Instagram as The Balaboosta Chef. She is also the founder of Happiness Jones Cookies. When she’s not teaching cooking classes or meal prepping for her clients, she can be found hiding in her kitchen pantry recording instastories while eating through her teenagers’ snacks and planning her next dinner party menu.