When I think of comfort food, I think mac 'n' cheese, potatoes au gratin or pretty much anything with a cream sauce. The last thing that comes to my mind is kale...until now. Kale is one of those vegetables that I felt I should like because the world is telling me to, but I just really don't want to. I don't like it that much unless it's completely softened in a soup or sauteed with some olive oil and garlic. But, raw kale, not so much. So why am I making a kale salad you ask? Because I've found a sweet spot between the almost inedible cruciferousness of raw kale and that soggy, sauteed spinach-like texture you'd get in a soup. The kale maintains its crispiness while exhibiting a deeper sautéed flavor, although it's not sautéed. Trust me, I didn't expect this either.
Now the other food I've spent a lifetime avoiding is the beet. As long as I can remember, beets brought to mind one thing...dirt. I never understood why my mother used to put those awful canned beets on her salad, and, honestly, I still don't. You couldn't pay me enough to eat canned anything, with a few exceptions like baked beans and diced tomatoes. Until I found out that beets were one of the main ingredients in my favorite veggie burger recipe, I really had no interest in them. Admittedly, it has taken some time for me to develop a taste for them, but now I'm all about the beets. And you will be too once you try this salad. You're welcome.
Recipe: (Serves 2-3)
2 beets (red or golden) (or about 1 can of beets, if fresh is out of the question)
6-8 cups raw kale - chopped into bite size pieces (or 1 bag of chopped kale)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup candied pecans - chopped into small bits
1 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
1½ tbsp raspberry balsamic vinegar
1 pinch garlic powder
Salt & pepper to taste
1 dollop of goat cheese on top for extra saltiness
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Roast the beets: Wrap the beets loosely in aluminum foil and roast until easily pierced with a fork, 45-60 minutes. Set aside to cool. If I am in a rush to cool them, I simply run them under some cold water while simultaneously peeling the skin off, which should come off easily once they are roasted. You can also roast the beets a day or two before, or simply use canned beets if you prefer. Chop off the ends and then chop the beets into small cubes.
In a large bowl, add kale, drizzle with olive, and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat the kale with the oil. Transfer kale to a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes or until the edges just start to crisp. You don't want the kale to be as crispy as a "kale chip", so keep an eye on it and test a piece if you have to. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
Make dressing: In the same bowl used to coat kale with oil, whisk together the yogurt, vinegar and garlic powder. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired. When you are making salad dressings, you can always adjust your ratios to your taste, but, remember, start with less vinegar and gradually add it in as desired.
Assemble the salad: Add the beets, kale, cranberries, pecans and parmesan cheese to the bowl of dressing. Toss to coat well. Plate the salad and top with the optional goat cheese.
Get creative! One way to get out of your routine, and simultaneously save money, is to use ingredients you already have in the house. When I started restricting my trips to the grocery store to once per week, not only did I save a bunch of cash, but was forced to think outside of the box in creating meals.