If its easy to fall into a dinner rut, then it’s even more effortless to fall into a salad rut.
The salad rut is actually the most dangerous variety of all – it’s so stealthy that sometimes you fall in and you aren’t even aware that you’re trapped. Suddenly you find yourself wedged between yet another cherry tomato and that same spinach leaf and you realize you’ve eaten an identical spinach and tomato salad every night for the last THREE WEEKS.
Why do we settle for such mundane mixes of our daily greens when shaking it up only requires a fleeting bit of forethought and creativity? Would you willingly eat the same side of mashed potatoes or the same quarter of roasted chicken every night for days on end and accept that that’s just the way it was? I too often find myself jawing mindlessly through my salads, taking them just for what I’ve created them to be: a nutritious and necessary item leasing real estate equating to a third of my dinner plate.
With just a few simple but key swaps the ordinary is elevated to nothing short of amazing. Swap out spinach or romaine for dark and rich kale, and trade in your tomatoes, cukes, and carrots for apples, cranberries and pecans and you thrust the tired salad back into the spotlight. It transforms what was once a compulsory requirement into a delightful side dish – and is completely simple, to boot.
Kale & Apple Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Ricotta Salata is the pressed, salted, and dried variety of the creamier and more widely recognized ricotta cheese. Use a vegetable peeler to make papery thin slices that will break apart slightly when you mix the salad and cling to each leaf. If you can’t find it, pecorino romano or parmigiano would be delicious as well.
Use lacinato or ‘dinosaur kale’ if possible – it is the very dark variety with much broader and flatter leaves than the curly type. Toss the salad and let it stand for at least 5 minutes before serving. This will allow the dressing to wilt the kale just slightly, but allow it to still have a toothsome crunch.
1 bunch kale
1 cup pecans (shelled)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup hot water
1 granny smith apple
3 tbsp fresh ricotta salad shavings
wedge of lemon
Apple Cider Vinaigrette, recipe follows
Sea salt & fresh pepper
Wash the kale and spin dry in a salad spinner, or blot the leaves between two tea towels. Cut out the thick ribs from the leaves, and chop very finely into thin ribbons (you want it to be in thin shreds). Place into a large bowl and set to the side.
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Roughly chop the pecans, and toast them over medium heat until they are lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Place the cranberries in a small bowl, and top with the hot water to soften, 5 minutes.
Cut the granny smith apple into matchsticks, and gently squeeze the lemon atop to prevent them from browning.
Drain the cranberries, and add them to the bowl of shredded kale along with the julienned apples, toasted pecans, and ricotta salata. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and season with salt & fresh cracked pepper. Toss well to combine.
Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Dresses Salad for 4
As a general rule of thumb when making vinaigrette the ratio of oil to vinegar is about 3:1. I find that a 2:1 (or sometimes even 1:1 with a mild vinegar) ratio is adequate. I simply add the oil in a thin stream, and when I feel that it has reached the proper consistancy I stop.
I’ll note that I do prefer a vinegary dressing over an oily one, so adjust the amount of oil below to your liking. Less oil also equals less fat & calories, and it’s easy to drown a healthy salad in too much oil.
1 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp good quality olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Juice & zest of 1 lemon
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, cider vinegar, lemon juice and zest till well combined. Season with salt and fresh cracked pepper. While whisking constantly, add the olive oil in a steady stream until combined.
Dressing will keep for one week, covered, in the fridge.