This isn’t just a Thanksgiving salad. This salad is one I make throughout the year, but with variations. Thanksgiving meals are classically heavy: bread, stuffing, potatoes, and casseroles. Oh boy! A heavy meal needs an acidic dish to wake up the tastebuds and provide something… different. A hearty kale salad is just the way to break up a monotonous meal.
Kale in this salad? Really?
Kale has already had its heyday. For years, it seemed like all recipes had some version of kale worked in. And if you’re someone that eats with the seasons, the time period encompassing fall and early winter is the time to eat kale.
As the weather cools down and the nights start to get frosty, kale sweetens up. The colder outdoor temperatures actually make kale less bitter. This is why we should always eat with the seasons as much as possible, taking in those in-season ripe vegetables are at their peak.
A more compelling reason to use kale is that it’s a great choice for a hearty salad. It’s strong enough to hold up to sharp dressings and heavy salad toppings (literally heavy). But not all kale can be picked in season. So to help offset the bitterness and tough texture, two things can be done:
- Remove the ribs and cut the kale into small pieces, breaking up the tenuous fibers.
- Dress the kale a few hours before the meal and massage it slightly. Dressing the kale early helps tenderize and soften the kale.
Both of these quick tips tremendously change the texture and flavor of the kale.
What pairs well with kale?
The heartiness of kale lends itself perfectly for toppings. While there are endless options, I’ve got a few favorites:
- Black lentils hold together when cooked and give a great bite, just like a grain would.
- Pomegranate arils have a sweet-sour pop and create a welcome offset to the ripe slices of pear.
- To finish, crumbled feta cheese adds a briny tang that pulls everything together.
When it’s all paired together, you’re left with a sweet, sour, tangy, and acidic dish. In my book, those are the perfect components for a good salad.
Watch how to make this hearty kale salad:
Hearty Kale Salad with Lentils and Pears
- 2 bunches lacinato kale, finely chopped
- 4 cups spinach
- ¾ cup black lentils
- 1 pear, sliced
- ¾ cup feta cheese, crumbled
- ¾ cup pomegranate arils
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1 ½ tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp orange juice
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ¾ cup olive oil
Cook the lentils
- Bring 2 ½ cups water to a boil and add 2 teaspoons salt. Add black lentils and cook until tender, 20 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse with cool water. Set aside to dry.
Prepare the dressing
- Combine the mustard, vinegar, molasses, maple syrup, orange juice, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine. Continue whisking and drizzle in oil to create an emulsion. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
For the salad
- Add the spinach and kale to a serving platter with the kale on top. Pour ¾ of the dressing over the kale and massage into the kale. Toss with the spinach.
- Sprinkle on lentils, pomegranate arils, pear slices, and feta cheese. Drizzle with remaining dressing and serve.