This salad has been a long-time coming.  It is  inspired by a salad I bought at the Central Market deli last fall, containing kale, cranberries, almonds, and sometimes candied ginger and pumpkin seeds.  Yes, sometimes they change the ingredients (maybe they too knew the salad was on the verge of perfection, but not quite there).  But the dressing is usually consistent: a delightful orange juice vinaigrette with shallots.

This portion is two days old in fact. The candied pineapple bits have absorbed the dressing, and the kale is still lively.

What is so great about this salad is that it is not raw kale the way you might imagine: tough, fibrous, stringy.  Also, unlike most fancy fresh green salads, you can make this ahead of time– in fact you can make it, and dress it, and eat it for a couple of days– and it wont get mushy.  It is really a life saver for those of us who work for a living and want to eat fresh veggies everyday but don’t always have the stamina to cook them or prep them everyday (or take more than one photo for this blog post! oops).

So lets redefine convenience food!  It is more like a side salad than a traditional green salad. Hence its appearance in the deli case.  However, I have been known to eat an entire meal of this.

But you do need to make it in advance– a couple of hours– so that the dressing can make the kale tender. You can shred the carrot fine or in thick ribbons, depending on the amount of crunch you want.  The candied dried pineapple can usually be found in the bulk section, either in small cubes or in bigger pieces you could cut up.  Although candied and sugary, I have found equal amounts of candied pineapple has much less sugar than cranberries, which are so tart they come heavily sweetened.

If you have ever had a good southern carrot salad with raisins and pineapple, you will like this greener version.  The flavors are there, but it is more savory.  I started out trying to duplicate the Central Market version, but soon realized it could be improved upon.  The cranberries were too overpowering, and the ginger didn’t meld its flavors (chopped crystalized pieces).

After several versions, and several attempts at the dressing, I think I have a salad I will make again and again.  The orange juice was from those powerfully sweet Texas oranges, so if you have lesser oranges, you may have to add a little sugar to balance the vinegar.  The texture of the roasted salted pumpkin seeds is better than other nuts, because they are small and crisp, and distribute themselves much better than almonds.  You could really make this with any dried fruit and nut combination, but like I said, I tried several, and this is the one I love.

Kale Salad with Orange Shallot Vinaigrette

1 bunch Kale, stems removed, in pieces

1-2 shredded carrots

1/2 cup diced candied pineapple

1/2 cup roasted salted pumpkin seeds

Vinaigrette:

Juice of one sweet orange (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 cup white vinegar or rice vinegar

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 shallot, minced

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp sugar (or more, to taste)

Directions: Place all salad ingredients in a large freezer bag.  Whisk together dressing until emulsified.  Pour the dressing into the bag, seal.  Massage the bag until the dressing coats all the leaves of the kale.  Pour into a serving bowl or container, and let rest for 1-2 hours.

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