Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Caramelized sweet potatoes and a tangy pomegranate vinaigrette are the perfect complement to earthy kale.

Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
SERVES 6 to 8 VEG
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS We love the earthy flavor of uncooked kale, but the texture of raw kale can be a little tough. Many recipes call for tossing it with dressing and letting it tenderize in the fridge overnight. This method didn’t deliver the tender leaves we were after, and the long sitting time wasn’t very convenient. Luckily, we found another technique that worked better and faster: massaging. Squeezing and massaging the kale broke down the cell walls in much the same way that heat would, darkening the leaves and turning them silky. Caramelized roasted sweet potatoes, shredded radicchio, crunchy pecans, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, and a sweet pomegranate vinaigrette turned our salad into a hearty meal. If you can’t find pomegranate molasses, you can make your own (see here ). Tuscan kale (also known as dinosaur or Lacinato kale) is more tender than curly-leaf and red kale; if using curly-leaf or red kale, increase the massaging time to 5 minutes. Do not use baby kale.

SALAD
1½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
12 ounces Tuscan kale, stemmed and sliced crosswise into ½-inch-wide strips (7 cups)
½ head radicchio (5 ounces), cored and sliced thin
⅓ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
Shaved Parmesan cheese
VINAIGRETTE
2 tablespoons water
1½ tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. FOR THE SALAD Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes with oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange potatoes in single layer in rimmed baking sheet and roast until browned, 25 to 30 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through roasting. Transfer to plate and let cool for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, vigorously squeeze and massage kale with hands until leaves are uniformly darkened and slightly wilted, about 1 minute.
2. FOR THE VINAIGRETTE Whisk water, pomegranate molasses, shallot, honey, vinegar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in oil.
3. Add potatoes, kale, and radicchio to vinaigrette and gently toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving platter and sprinkle with pecans and shaved Parmesan to taste. Serve.
Massaging Kale
Vigorously squeeze and massage kale with hands over counter or in large bowl until leaves are uniformly darkened and slightly wilted, about 1 minute for flat-leaf kale (or 5 minutes for curly-leaf or red kale).

Mâche Salad with Cucumber and Mint
SERVES 6 to 8 FAST VEG
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Mâche, also called lamb’s lettuce, is a soft, tender green that grows in delicate rosettes and is beloved in French kitchens for its sweet, nutty flavor. Hoping to turn this baby lettuce into an elegant side salad, we paired the mâche with the crisp, fresh flavor of thinly sliced cucumber. Chopped mint added brightness, and crunchy pine nuts reinforced the mâche’s buttery notes. We kept the dressing simple with just lemon juice, fresh parsley, fresh thyme, and minced garlic, plus capers for some briny contrast to the rest of the salad. Mâche is a very delicate green, so be sure to handle it gently and make sure it is thoroughly dry before tossing it with the vinaigrette. If you can’t find mâche, you can substitute either baby spinach or mesclun.

12 ounces (12 cups) mâche
1 cucumber, sliced thin
½ cup chopped fresh mint
⅓ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Gently toss mâche, cucumber, mint, and pine nuts together in large bowl. Whisk lemon juice, parsley, capers, thyme, garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper together in small bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in oil. Drizzle dressing over salad and gently toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

NOTES FROM THE TEST KITCHEN
Washing and Drying Salad Greens
To make a great salad, the only thing that is more critical than using crisp, fresh greens is using clean, dry greens. Trying to dress a salad while the greens are still wet is a losing battle—the dressing slides off, and the water from the greens will dilute the dressing. We believe that the only foolproof method for drying them is to use a salad spinner.

TO WASH GREENS
Fill a salad spinner bowl with cool water, add cut greens, and gently swish them around. Do not run water directly over the greens, as the force can bruise them. Using your hands, gently move the greens to loosen grit, which will fall to the bottom of the bowl. Use the sink if you need to clean large amounts of greens.

TO DRY GREENS
Dry greens in a salad spinner, stopping several times to dump out excess moisture. Keep spinning greens until no more moisture accumulates. After spinning them, we like to blot greens dry with paper towels; even the best salad spinners don’t dry greens completely.

 

Salads

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