Winter Kale Salad with Apples and Pecorino Romano

For being a vegetarian I am surprisingly salad-averse.  Perhaps that’s from having to eat so many dinner salads when it’s the only vegetarian option at a restaurant.  Rarely do I make salads at home but when I do it is often more out of a sense of duty to the wilting package of spring mix or half-eaten bag of spinach in my fridge that I bought in order to have “healthy” lunches but have since ignored.

This salad defies all stereotypes.  The mixture of spicy greens and tart apples punctuated by the sharp flavor of the Pecorino Romano is tempered by the sweetness of the toasted almonds and the honey-sweetened dressing.  The combination is neither fussy nor exotic, but nonetheless evokes the rich combination of bitter and sweet, like coffee and cream, another favorite of mine.

This recipe makes enough for two main course portions, or four side salads, and is great with quiche or just a piece of crusty bread dipped in olive oil.  Leftovers keep well for a day or two, and the beauty of the kale is that it doesn’t get soggy even after refrigerated with dressing.

Ingredients:

        For the salad

1 cup shredded brussels sprouts (about 5-6 sprouts)

1 bunch of kale, de-ribbed and cut into 1/4 in strips

1 sweet-tart apple, like Pink Lady or Fuji, Granny Smith would also due

heaping 1/4 cup raw, whole almonds

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 cup Pecorino Roman cheese, or other hard, pungent cheese, crumbled

     
       For the dressing

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

Prepare the kale by cutting out the thick center rib and then slicing them in bite-sized, 1/4 inch strips.  Put the sliced kale in a large bowl and massage it.  I know what you’re thinking, but it’s legit.  Taking the kale by the handful and give it a good squeeze like you were wringing a towel or kneading bread dough.  This breaks the tough exterior down so that you can chew it without needing to have a whole mouth full of molars (like a cow) and it helps release more of the nutrients in the kale.

To prepare the brussels sprouts, slice them in half from pole to pole.  With each half laid cut-side down on the cutting board, shred the sprout by making thin 1/8 inch slices starting at the top and moving down to the stem end.  Discard the bottom 1/2 inch or so of stem, it’s too woody to eat raw.  Place the shredded sprouts in the bowl with the massaged kale.


To toast the almonds, put a sauté pan on medium-high and let it heat up a bit.  Once it’s good and hot, add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the almonds and cook until they begin to brown in the center, shaking the pan periodically so they don’t burn.  When they are nice and toasted, take them out of the pan to cool and set them aside until they are cool enough to handle.  When they cool down, chop them into smaller pieces, but don’t go overboard.  They should still be recognizable as almonds.  Set the almonds aside.  I don’t like to toss them with the whole salad, but prefer to sprinkle them on top (plus, if someone has a nut allergy you haven’t spoiled the whole salad for them).

While the almonds are toasting, prepare the apples.  Cut the apple in half and cut out the core.  Slice it into thin pieces, and then in half again so they are bite-sized.  Add them to the kale and sprouts.

To make the dressing, juice 2 lemons with a juicer or a reamer.  I have a little hand-press lemon squeezer that I love.  It makes turning all those lemons into lemonade a snap!  Anyway, you want to end up with about ¼ cup or more of juice.  Add the olive oil and honey to the lemon juice and whisk together with a fork until all the honey is dissolved and the oil and juice are combined.

Add the dressing to the greens and apple and toss to coat, reserving some of it in case you want it less juicy.  Once the salad is dressed, add the Pecorino Romano and toss again just to distribute the cheese.  I like to crumble the cheese, but you can dice it up or even shred it—whatever you like.

Once the greens are plated, sprinkle the top of the salad with the toasted almonds and enjoy.  I recently served this salad alongside a tomato, artichoke heart and feta quiche, with Meyer lemon bars for dessert.  Simple, yet so decadent.  Enjoy.

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