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A Kale Salad To Celebrate Fall

Ah kale. With your rise in popularity, you’ve often become the butt of many vegan jokes. But no matter what others may say about you, you’re still one of my favorite greens to add to a salad. Hearty, but not too bitter, and with an outstanding ability to hold up under the weight of dressing, choosing a kale salad is often a great way to go when you’re entertaining.

I originally developed this particular gem for a Rosh Hashanah menu. Around the world, Jewish communities have added a ritual revolving around symbolic foods to help usher in a happy and prosperous New Year. The chosen ingredients might seem a little random at first glance. Carrots, leeks, black-eyed peas, cabbage, what do all of these have in common?

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Kale Caesar Salad with Spiced Pecan Croutons

The inspiration behind this recipe was partially the vegan fascination with kale, but also an ongoing attempt to perfect a nut-based vegan caesar dressing.  Additionally, I first made this particular recipe for a Thanksgiving meal several years ago, and while I knew the salad needed a little something other than kale and dressing, I didn’t want to go for traditional croutons because I knew the meal was already going to be so carb heavy.  So enter pecan croutons.  I wanted the flavor to be reminiscent of traditional garlic croutons, without all of the bread.  These pecans are super savory, with a little buttery flavor, plus garlic and a hint of woody rosemary, melded with the caramel nuttiness of a toasted pecan.  While completely delicious on their own, they actually taste incredibly similar to bread based croutons when mixed into the salad!  Even more luckily, most of the people at this meal either had never tried kale before, or hadn’t like it until then, and I got many requests for the recipe.  So even though I’m a few years late, here it is!

Munching on some kale in the field.  Austin TX, March 2012

Munching on some kale in the field like a true vegan. Austin TX,  March 2012

Caesar Dressing:

  • 1 c raw, unsalted cashews, soaked overnight or boiled for 15 minutes
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic (you can add more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 c water
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp capers
  • 2 tbsp caper brine
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp maple syrup or agave (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a food processor, and process until smooth, scraping down the sides when necessary.  Adjust seasonings to taste, and add more water if you find the dressing is too thick.

Spiced Pecans

  • 1 c shelled pecan halves
  • 2 tbsp non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (or olive oil)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt to taste

Melt the margarine, and add the spices.  Toss the pecans in the margarine mixture, and then toast about 5-10 minutes in a 350 degree oven, stirring occasionally (I actually prefer a toaster oven for this).  The pecans are done when they smell faintly toasty, and have just begun to brown.  Be careful not to burn them.  Nobody likes burnt nuts.  Cool.

To Assemble:

  • 1 recipe Caesar dressing
  • 1 recipe toasted pecans
  • 1 large bunch of kale

Strip the kale from the thick, stem and either chop or rip into bite sized pieces.  Add the dressing, and using your hands, massage the dressing into the kale until the leaves are coated evenly, and have begun to wilt ever so slightly.  Toss in the pecans and serve.