Autumn Kale Salad with Roasted Cauliflower and Apple
Today is my roommate’s birthday!
(Happy birthday, future Logan reading this on the subway in December!)
I love birthdays. Mostly mine, but Logan’s is easily my second favorite. He tops the list of my favorite people, and there is booze and cake (and in today’s case, Nobu) involved, so I’m obviously thrilled to celebrate. I also not-so-secretly enjoy the fact that for the 5 months following Logan’s birthday, our age difference becomes 4 years vs. 3 (at least on paper). It makes me feel like a hot young piece of ace, and for that I’ll always be grateful.
It’s become tradition for me to fulfill one of Logan’s wildest food fantasies on his birthday (see: Bulgogi Sandos and Mexican Mac), but I’m ashamed to admit that I fell down on the job this year. Because we’re going out to dinner tonight, the dude thought I was going to surprise him with his bday treat last night, and he was all kinds of hopped up on the idea when he got home from work. I give him credit for playing it semi-cool when he found out we were having leftover Dude Diet lasagna, but he was clearly upset that I hadn’t tackled an Instagram request for the occasion. (Logan tags me in like 40 batshit creations a week. He’s committed to “breaking me down slowly.”)
Honestly, I feel a little guilty about disappointing the birthday boy (I live for his excitement freakouts), and I plan to make it up to him at some point in the near-ish future by taking on a ridiculous ‘gram meal. Since that will probably involve meat sweat-worthy quantities of beef or pork and several pounds of cheese, I suggest we all eat an Autumn Kale Salad in preparation….
I won’t bore you with the many health benefits of this superfood salad, as I’m sure you’re already aware that kale makes you smarter, prettier, and more Gwyneth-like in every way (and that all the other fruits and veggies in this mix will help you fight scary diseases and live forever). Instead, let’s focus on the awesome fall flavors in this leafy green delight. We’ve got tender massaged kale (sadly, that never gets less creepy to write), caramelized cauliflower florets, tart apples, sweet golden raisins, spicy red onion, and toasted pepitas, all tossed in a simple apple cider vinaigrette. It’s hearty and fresh, and it has an insane amount of texture. The crunch factor. Dear God.
As with all salads (and things on this blog), you should feel free to use this recipe as a template and tweak it to suit your personal tastes/mood/what you have hanging out in your fridge or pantry. I’m a die-hard cauliflower fan, but roasted broccoli would also be cool. Any chopped nuts (almonds! walnuts! pecans!) could be subbed for the pepitas in a pinch, and currants, cranberries and cherries are great dried fruit alternatives for the raisin haters. Swap sharp cheddar for ricotta if you want a little more bite, or keep things vegan and ditch the cheese altogether. You get where I’m going with this…
YOU DO YOU.
While we’re on the subject of potential modifications, please note that this kale salad is pretty lightly dressed. I’m pointing this out because after reading countless feedback forms for The Dude Diet book’s salad chapter, it’s become abundantly clear that many peeps prefer a slightly more generous pour than I do. I respect that (except when it comes to ranch), so if you happen to be in the heavily dressed camp, I recommend doubling up on the vinaigrette and drizzling to your little heart’s content. You could even toss the warm cauliflower with some of that extra dressing before adding it to the salad. It will soak into the florets and give the bites with cauli an extra tangy punch.
I’ve been eating this kale miracle as a sassy desk lunch recently, but I originally dreamt it up as a simple make-ahead side for this fall’s Friends in Food potluck. It travels like a boss, so keep it in mind for all your Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving celebrations. Thinking reallllly far down the line, I like this as a Christmas appetizer or side as well. Throw a handful of pomegranate arils into the mix and it becomes an instant holiday-themed stunner. Do it up.
Autumn Kale Salad with Roasted Cauliflower and Apple: (Serves 3 as a light meal, 6 as a side)
½ head cauliflower, florets removed
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 bunch lacinato kale, center ribs removed and finely chopped
¼ medium red onion, very thinly sliced
1 apple, thinly sliced
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup raw pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds)
¼ cup golden raisins
1/3 cup shaved ricotta salata
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1½ teaspoons pure maple syrup
Preparing your Autumn Kale Salad with Roasted Cauliflower and Apple:
-Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Arrange the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Sprinkle with a good pinch of kosher salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning the florets halfway through the cooking time, until tender and lightly browned. Let cool to room temperature.
-Place the kale in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with the remaining teaspoon olive oil and add a pinch of salt. Time to give the kale a little massage. Just rub the leaves between your fingers, literally massaging the oil and salt into the leaves, until the kale darkens and becomes tender. (This will take 1-2 minutes.) Briefly set aside.
-In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing.
-Place the red onions in the bowl with the dressing and let them soak for 10 minutes.
-Place the apples in a separate bowl with the lemon juice. Toss to coat. (This will keep your apples from turning sad and brown.)
-Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add the pepitas and toast for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until they’re lightly brown. (You may even hear some of them make a popping noise.) Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
-Time to assemble this salad. Add the roasted cauliflower, apples, toasted pepitas, raisins, and half of the ricotta to the bowl with the massaged kale. Add the dressing and red onions and gently toss to combine.
-Transfer the salad to a serving bowl or platter and serve topped with the remaining cheese.
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