Kale, the Headless Crucifer, Rides Again

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Kale Salad with Salmon and BeetsDon’t tell me you haven’t yet tried kale. I mean, I get it and all. I, too, was a raw kale virgin until one fateful day in November when we first met over a salad of kale and roasted Brussels sprouts. I fell in love, and my cruciferous world was forever changed. Kale is actually a hearty fall vegetable, you may know, but it’s still around at the winter farmers’ markets for a few more weeks. I thus seized the opportunity this past weekend to make a big salad with it, perhaps the last I’ll make for a while. And, as it happens, the kale had a deep green hue, which made for a very pretty salad indeed when adorned with magenta beets and, um, salmon salmon.

Kale Salad with Beets, Carrots. and Toasted Walnuts (Salmon Optional)

Salmon, Kale, and Beet Salad A feast for the palate as well as the eyes, this salad has a fabulous balance of flavors and textures that has “big salad” for dinner written all over it. If you remain reluctant to make kale’s acquaintance, you can read more about Molly Wizenberg’s first time, who inspired me to pop my kale cherry try kale. In today’s rendition, the sweetness of the beets complements the mildly bitter kale and toasted walnuts add crunch. A zesty orange-dijon vinaigrette brings together all of the salad’s elements with panache. The heart- and brain-healthy fats present in the nuts, olive oil, and salmon, including both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, also help your body to absorb all of the nutrients in the salad. And guess what? Although roasted beets are terrific, you can thinly slice raw beets on a mandoline or grate them, eliminating 45 minutes of prep time.

Vegetarian and Vegan Versions Still Rock

Don’t eat salmon? Adding fish was actually an afterthought, as my original idea was to top it with parmigiana, below. I just happened to have a smallish piece of fish in the fridge that I thought would make a savory addition. And it did. But long shards ofcheese will give you a bit of umami sans animal flesh, if you prefer. To keep the whole shebang vegan, leave off both. Honestly, the salad still totally rocks. Really. I love cheese, but I also experimented the first time I made a kale salad and found it really did not need it. Another serving idea is to include orange segments for color contrast and flavor balance, which would be terrific (which is why I included carrots in this version). In an everyday hearty big salad I’ll often use tons of different veggies and whatnot but a salad like this one benefits from focusing on a few key ingredients, as piling on more stuff will start to detract. In many cases with cooking, less is actually more.

Make It Your Own … Within Reason

The point, as always is that eating healthy for life is about options, so take what you like, leave what you don’t, and—as always—make it your own. You do need to keep to the overall tenor of the “salad” idea to reap the health benefits, though, so be reasonable in your substitutions and remember the nutrition basics we’ve discussed to guide you.

In other words, don’t, say, substitute bacon for the kale.

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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

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