I have a thing for salads. And I think it's contagious.
Because somewhere along the line, I became the official salad fixer for all get-togethers with family and friends. Friends ask for "Karin salad" as part of their birthday dinner. Logan's first three-word sentence was asking for more salad (well, it was asking for more cheese from the salad but I'm just going to call it a win, ok?). Essentially, I have strong feelings about salad and people tend to agree with me. And this is a salad you want to eat.
I'm sure that one day I'll write a salad manifesto - but for today, suffice it to say that a good salad is a maximalist salad - maybe 50% greens, and the rest a delicious jumble of textures, tastes, and colors. Today, the greens are kale, and the mix-ins are all the best bits of spring.
And I know, I know - kale salads aren't trendy anymore. They're downright mainstream. Trendy people have moved on to Brussels sprouts and collard greens and who-knows-what-else. But I'm still stuck on kale. Because kale is borderline magical: bitter and tough and difficult to eat, until it's cut into ribbons and massaged with a tangy maple-mustard dressing, where it transforms to a tangled mess of goodness.
I really wanted a salad for spring - winters in the inland northwest can feel never-ending, so those first radishes and strawberries and tulips feel profoundly, completely welcome. And even more so this year - taking a little time to nourish ourselves with fresh foods is ascending from a "should be" all the way to self care. So those strawberries and radishes get mixed with kale, red onion, and avocado. Then topped with salty pecorino and walnuts and promptly devoured.
If your salad-devouring proclivities are less...intense than mine, I still recommend making the entire batch of this salad - it sets so well in the fridge, and makes an ideal make-ahead lunch. We like to eat it as a meal-sized salad, topped with a little grilled chicken or salmon. It also makes a delicious side - we love it beside a simple roast chicken with roasted potatoes. Either way, enjoy!
Kale salad with strawberries, avocado, and walnuts
- 2 small bunches lacinato or tuscan kale
- 1 cup strawberries (175g)
- ½ small red onion
- 5 radishes
- 1 large or 2 small avocados
- 3 oz Pecorino-Romano cheese (85g)
- ½ cup walnuts (70g)
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Wash, dry and de-stem kale. Stack clean dry leaves on your cutting board, the roll into a tight bundle. Slice bundle crosswise into thin ribbons. Place in a large bowl. (You should have approx 7 cups of chopped kale)
- Cut strawberries into chunks. Slice red onion thinly. Cut radishes in half, then slice into thin half-moons. Halve avocado(s) remove pit and use a spoon to scoop the flesh out cleanly. Chop avocado into ¾ inch chunks.
- You have two options to prepare the cheese: First, you can cut the pecorino-romano cheese into 1-inch chunks and place them in a blender or food processor. Using short pulses, chop the cheese until it resembles a crumbly, coarse meal. Alternatively, you can slice the Pecorino-Romano thinly on your cutting board. Then use your knife to run through the slices several times, producing shards, then, eventually, a crumbled consistency similar to that seen in the photos above.
- In a dry skillet, toast walnuts over medium heat until fragrant and slightly deepened in color, 5-8 minutes.
- Combine all vinaigrette ingredients EXCEPT olive oil in a small bowl. using a whisk, mix to combine. Season well with salt and pepper. While constantly mixing, add olive oil in a thin stream until evenly emulsified.
- Season kale with salt and pepper. Add half of dressing to greens. Using your hands, massage the dressing into the greens until the kale slumps slightly and turns darker in color, 15-30 seconds. Add strawberries, onions, radishes, avocado, half of the cheese, and walnuts and toss with tongs, adding more dressing as needed and tasting for appropriate seasoning.
- Distribute salad among plates or transfer to a serving dish. Top with remaining cheese. Serve