Kale and Apple Salad with Bacon and Pecans

April 4, 2012

I go to the farmers’ market armed with a single bag theory thinking I will surely be limited to a reasonable number of purchases, yet fail every time.  I’ve become pretty good at packing that bag which seems manageable while I’m filling it.  A few bundles of greens can’t take up all that much space, right?

But then the rainbow carrots look so good, and I can’t pass up a gorgeous head of romanesco cauliflower.  Or is it broccoli?  A mixture of sprouts, some chard, and baby beets end up in the bag before I’m done and once home I wonder where to begin.  There certainly isn’t enough room in my fridge for it all.

The carrots and beets will be fine for a while, and the sprouts will go easily into so many things:  my smoothies, salad, omelets, an open-faced egg salad sandwich.

But the kale.  Oh, the kale.  I couldn’t resist buying three different kinds.

I know.

But there’s a method to my madness with kale.  It’s easy to think “salad” first, because the kale is fresh.  But did you know you can freeze kale?  And guess what?  It’s not soggy, soft, or looking like something that was lost in the nether regions of my veggie bin when it’s thawed and ready for use, either.  In fact, you can use it frozen.  More about that later.

Let’s talk salad for now.

Kale and Apple Salad with Bacon and Pecans

Salad Ingredients

1-2 bunches kale

2 apples such as Fuji, Braeburn, Pink Lady, etc.

1/3 sweet white onion, chopped

3 pieces bacon, fried, drained well, and chopped

1/2 c. pecans

Dressing Ingredients

2 T apple cider vinegar

2 T apple cider

1 T honey

1 tsp. Dijon

1 T shallot, minced

2 T extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Remove any thick stems from the kale and chop the leaves into small bite-sized pieces.   Place in a large bowl for a crowd, or storage container if you’re making enough for fewer people over several days.
  2. Chop the apple, leaving the peelings on and add it to the kale.
  3. Crush  pecans in the palm of your hand and sprinkle over the kale and apples.
  4. Add the onions and bacon to the mix.
  5. Make the dressing by adding all ingredients to a small jar with a lid and shake vigorously.  Taste and adjust flavors by adding a bit more Dijon or honey to your preference.  Finish with salt and pepper if desired.
  6. Pour about half the dressing over the whole large salad and toss well, or if making ahead, toss a small amount over the salad just to moisten the apples to keep them from browning and then store in the fridge.

From left to right:  Russian kale, Tuscan kale, and curly kale.

I used curly kale for this salad.

Notes:

  • Be prepared to chew and chew and chew — a good thing!  The flavors in this are so pleasant.  Make sure a bit of everything is in each bite.
  • Of course you don’t have to add the bacon, but it’s certainly tasty in this.  And surely you remember the pig I bought from local farmer Jack of Taj Farms, right?  It’s incredibly lean and flavorful and we use it sparingly.
  • Although it may be personal preference, I believe that curly kale is the best for this salad — although black, or Tuscan kale would also work.
  • The best way to judge is to taste the kale before you decide what to use it for.  The longer kale sits, the more bitter it can become so make sure it’s used as fresh as possible.
  • If you’re not a raw kale lover, then steam about 3-5 minutes and rinse with cold water and drain well before continuing with the salad.
  • The salad keeps quite well in the fridge for three days so if you make it for dinner, you’ll have lunch ready for the better part of the week.
  • To freeze kale, rinse well and make sure it’s quite dry afterwards.  Line the leaves up on a dish towel and gently roll them up in it to absorb those drops.  Lay the leaves on a flat pan and place in the freezer about 10 minutes.  Remove and place in a zip lock bag making sure to carefully press out as much air as possible.  Use within a week by removing as much as you need and breaking the leaves into pieces.  Use in soups, quick breakfast scrambles, or smoothies.  

  • If you prefer, chop the kale after drying it, then freeze on a baking sheet and remove to the zip lock bag after about 10 minutes.  Grab as much as you need for all kinds of recipes.
  • Kale that has been frozen thaws very quickly and although it doesn’t wilt like lettuce does when it’s dried out, it does have a less crisp bite to it.  There’s no discoloration at all, however and chewing on it frozen is kind of refreshing.  Who knew?
  • Why eat kale?  It’s a true super food packed with so many good nutrients for your body it’s amazing.  The World’s Healthiest Foods tells all about it.
  • Good News — 18.1 lbs. lost as of today which means I made my goal of 6 lbs. lost three months in a row.  One more pound lost gets me to a big milestone, so I’m motivated about that.  And I’ve got to step up the walking because I’ve been slacking off the past week.  I have no excuses because the weather is great and nothing aches right now.  To be fair, I have been learning to fit weights in and core strengthening into my week in greater earnest, so I can have some kind of a schedule instead of just hitting each day with the attitude of “at least I’m doing something.”  It’s time to be even more deliberate so that by the first week of May I can say I’ve lost 24 lbs. — and that’s so close to 25…  We’ll see.  I’ve got a reasonable goal of 1.5 lbs. a week and am not in a hurry so don’t want to sabotage what I’m doing.  The longer this all takes, the more I’ll be able to say I’ve changed my habits and they’ll last.
  • Challenges — I’ve been pretty hungry this past week and am on a first name basis with my grumbling stomach.  I spend a lot of time at the market because it seems we’re always out of something.  Yes, I plan, but we go through the fresh stuff pretty quickly.  Remember I’m keeping the hubster stocked with his daily food as well.  His big challenge is that it’s the most busy time of the year and his hours are quite long.  He hasn’t been exercising but has kept up with good eating habits and holding steady at 22 lbs. lost.  Two more weeks to go!  Additional challenges for me are a steady loss.  I can swing by as much as 1-2 lbs. every few days going up, then back down.  Staying hydrated is a big challenge and I’m still struggling with eating consistently.  Ramping up fiber-filled foods has been an interesting experiment, but I’m working on the side effects of that as well.  More later on that.

Other ways I’ve prepared kale recently:

Kale, Purple Potato, and Bacon Hash — no recipe.  Just dice and roast the potatoes with a bit of garlic and olive oil, in a 400 oven or in a frying pan for about 15 minutes, tossing once or twice.  Fry 1-2 pieces of bacon and crumble with the potatoes.  Toss with the kale — you can saute it if you like, or leave raw like salad greens.  Place two eggs over.

White Bean and Sausage Soup with Kale — So many recipes around for this.  Use canned white beans or dried you’ve cooked yourself.  Vegetable broth, maybe some carrots and onion, always garlic.  Brown lean sausage  and add along with chopped kale.

Strawberry Banana Pineapple Yogurt Smoothie with Kale — Half a banana, about 5 strawberries a slice of fresh pineapple, cored, a half to 1 cup or so of non-fat plain Greek yogurt, 1-2 tsp. ground flaxseed meal, and a couple of handfuls of ice.  Don’t forget the handful of kale from the freezer!

Kale and Apple Salad with Bacon and Pecans
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A little bit of this nutrient dense salad goes a long way. Tasty and healthy!
Author:
Recipe type: Salad,Gluten-free
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • Salad Ingredients
  • 1-2 bunches kale
  • 2 apples such as Fuji, Braeburn, Pink Lady, etc.
  • ⅓ sweet white onion, chopped
  • 3 pieces bacon, fried, drained well, and chopped
  • ½ c. pecans
  • Dressing Ingredients
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T apple cider
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 tsp. Dijon
  • 1 T shallot, minced
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Remove any thick stems from the kale and chop the leaves into small bite-sized pieces. Place in a large bowl for a crowd, or storage container if you’re making enough for fewer people over several days.
  2. Chop the apple, leaving the peelings on and add it to the kale.
  3. Crush pecans in the palm of your hand and sprinkle over the kale and apples.
  4. Add the onions and bacon to the mix.
  5. Make the dressing by adding all ingredients to a small jar with a lid and shake vigorously. Taste and adjust flavors by adding a bit more Dijon or honey to your preference. Finish with salt and pepper if desired.
  6. Pour about half the dressing over the whole large salad and toss well, or if making ahead, toss a small amount over the salad just to moisten the apples to keep them from browning and then store in the fridge.

 

Great Ways to Enjoy Kale from Around the Web:

Design Sponge — In the Kitchen with:  Gena Knox’s Kale and Apple Salad

Sprouted Kitchen — Lemon Kale Salad + Seared Salmon

The Parsley Thief — Spaghetti with Braised Kale

Gourmande in the Kitchen — Kale Powder | Your Daily Dose of Green

Spoon Fork Bacon — Blood Orange & Kale Salad

gluten-free goddess — Easy Crispy Kale Chips

 

 

 

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

ilva April 5, 2012

Lovely kales, I didn’t even know Russian kale existed so many thanks for that, not that I ever will find it here in Tuscany! And I back you up completely on buying one bag full when you go but you should get a very elastic one really….

Reply

kellypea April 7, 2012

Ilva — I’ll bet you can find it, and if not, then seeds to grow will get you some. I understand it’s a very hearty plant and even benefits from a good frost to sweeten it up. Congrats on your Saveur finalist achievement. Voted for you!

Reply

Kalyn April 5, 2012

Yes, kale is a growing addiction here too. I’ve grown Red Russian Kale in my garden for several years now and enjoyed using it in a variety of ways, but the last couple of years I’ve loved something that’s just called “curly green kale” on the seeds!

Reply

kellypea April 7, 2012

I’ve been noticing some exotic types at the farmer’s market — I think it’s being picked early so the leaves are delicate. Some varieties are lacy and a dark purple color. Would be gorgeous to grow among my non edibles, but the bummer is I’d have to figure out how to use a safe organic fertilizer that works for all of my plants. So jealous of your garden, Kalyn.

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Joanne April 5, 2012

It’s rare that I can go to Whole Foods or to the farmer’s market without coming back with some kind of green…usually kale or swiss chard. I just love them so much! This salad will certainly be a new favorite. I was wary of raw kale salads at first, but now I can’t get enough!

Congrats on the weight loss!!

Reply

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) April 6, 2012

I love everything about this combination of flavors! Because I’m not a raw onion person, I’d cook those along with the bacon, then drain both and add to the dressing. Your fitness program is inspiring!

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kellypea April 7, 2012

Thanks, Lydia, and you know — I forget that not everyone is a fan of onions so thanks for bringing that up. What a great idea to cook (we did that for a salad last night — love the caramel flavor it adds) the onions and use the juice. Smart!

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Ben April 6, 2012

I’m the same way. I always think I know what I want from the market and that I won’t buy anything else, but I can’t help myself when I see something new, or pretty. I always end up with more produce than what I can use in a week. I love what you’ve done with the greens you got. They’re beautiful!

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kellypea April 7, 2012

It’s that we’re optimists, right Ben? Or gluttons! hahaha. But seriously, I need a better plan before I go. Maybe that will work.

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terri April 6, 2012

congratulations on meeting your weight loss goals! hang in there–you can continue to do it!

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kellypea April 7, 2012

Thanks, terri! I appreciate the motivation. Since writing this post, I’ve lost more than another pound getting me past a big number on the scale milestone. w00t!

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lo April 7, 2012

Big congrats to you for staying on target. I’ve struggled with my weight for years, and need to find an approach that really sticks!

This salad looks just lovely… can’t wait to have Red Russian kale growing in my backyard again. So good for things like this!

Reply

kellypea April 7, 2012

Thanks — I’m feeling great but am in no way deterred from making it to the end. I think I just got to feel so badly about myself, it was the biggest motivating factor. And I had all the knowledge about how to do it so absolutely no excuses…Jealous you’ve got room for a garden. This year, I’ve got two pots of tomatoes, just planted strawberries in my herb box, and am getting ready to plant some peas and bush beans. We’ll see how that goes :)

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Stash April 8, 2012

Kale is one of those greens that doesn’t get much respect. I’ll definitely be looking into some of these recipes in the near future.

Here in NYC, there are vendors that sell “Tuscan kale” a/k/a cavolo nero (or black cabbage). It’s a little strange, since that’s typically available in Italy in the winter, whereas it’s obtainable at USGM in July and August.

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Bonnie April 13, 2012

I just read your post on Blogher and wanted to stop in and say how much I enjoyed it. You addressed many of the feelings that I have about food blogging. I’d love to discuss your post more fully but, alas, I have either sprained or done something worse to my wrist. I will be back for a visit–hopefully soon.

Best,
Bonnie

Reply

kellypea April 14, 2012

Thanks so much for stopping by, Bonnie, and sorry to hear about your wrist. It makes me remember the 9 weeks I had my right arm in a cast about the time of year grades were due and when you’re an English teacher, there’s no getting around making comments on students’ papers. Quite the challenge!

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Marge (A Sweet and Savory Life) April 14, 2012

I never thought to freeze kale– what a great idea. Especially because I, like you, tend to get carried away in farmers’ markets.
I am new to your blog and want to let you know that I think your photos and styling are really pretty … And I am inspired by your impressive weight loss. Two totally different reasons that I’ll be back!

Reply

kellypea April 14, 2012

Marge, I think I had the pleasure of seeing you present on a panel at BlogHer Food last year in Atlanta. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Give the kale a good freeze and let me know what you think!

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Gwen @SimplyHealthyFamily April 15, 2012

You are my new favorite person! I love kale but usually steam it and serve w cidar vinegar or balsamic, gets boring. Oh, and I had no idea you could safely freeze kale!!! Thx, now I don’t have to worry about wasting all the kale from my little garden.

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Andrea Meyers April 16, 2012

I’m finding a new appreciation for kale, especially after harvesting baby kale leaves from our garden over the weekend. The flavor is mild and the leaves are tender, perfect for a salad like this. I love bacon and apples in salads!

Reply

carol April 17, 2012

i love raw kale salad. i use an old chef trick and “cook” it to make it easier to eat. add about a teaspoon of salt to raw cut up kale and massage with your fingers for about 2 minutes. (kind of like when you use your fingers to cut butter into flour for pastry) at the end of it, the kale will look like cooked spinach. you can adjust the salt content in your dressing to account for the salt added to the kale.

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kellypea April 17, 2012

I’ve recently learned about massaging kale but haven’t tried it yet. I’ve also heard that it’s actually more healthy if blanched briefly after chopping. Can’t wait to try this, so thanks!

Reply

El April 25, 2012

I’m the same way at the farmers market. It was worth it- the salad looks great.

Reply

Ann P May 4, 2012

Your salad, smoothie, hash, and soup look SO amazing. like seriously! I’ve been eating so badly lately, my body is just craving healthy stuff like this. and congrats on your weight loss progress! You are so good, I need to be more like you!

Reply

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