My relationship with kale has been a wild ride.
At first I just used it in recipes where I would have used other greens, like collard or mustard greens. Similar to greens that could be cooked in soups or stews for a long time without disintegrating, kale stood up to a serious simmer and added a nice flavor. OK, I like it. Team Kale!
Then I tried to sub it into my favorite salads. Its tough, fibrous leaves left a lot to be desired, adding way too much "chaw" to an otherwise delightful dish. Nope. Team Kale can count me out.
Recently, and I don't know why it took me so long, I learned I should be massaging my kale before using it in a salad. Sounds sexy, right? Well, it's not, but thanks for playing along.
It turns out that working oil or an acid into the kale actually breaks down some of the fibers in the leaves, rendering it more tender and thoroughly enjoyable. Yay! I'm back on Team Kale!
In this week's Roasted Spiced Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Kale Salad, the kale holds its own alongside tender bites of sweet potato and crispy chickpeas. Topped off with a generous showering of crumbled, salty feta and crunchy, toasted pepitas, this salad checks every box. Each forkful has something soft, sweet, salty and crunchy — it's a party on a plate.
For me, that's the key to a good salad: One that's interesting to eat. It needs to have delicious flavors and a variety of textures, and this one has it all.
While it could easily be a side dish to a simple roast or steak, I'm happy making a meal out of it, served with a crusty loaf of bread and glass of wine.
So, if you, like me, haven't always been rooting for this leafy green, give this dish a try. Don't worry, I'll save a place for you on the bench.
Roasted Spiced Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Kale Salad
Tender, spiced bites of sweet potatoes and crispy chickpeas give this leafy green salad loads of interesting flavor and texture. Massaging the kale before adding it to the salad renders tough, fibrous leaves tender. From Meredith Deeds.
• 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-in. cubes (about 4 c.)
• 1 (14-oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
• 7 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
• 1 tsp. smoked paprika
• 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
• 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
• 3/4 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 2 large heads kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
• 2 tbsp. lemon juice
• 2 tsp. honey
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
• 1/4 c. toasted pepitas
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
On a large, rimmed baking sheet, combine the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, 2 tablespoons olive oil, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss well to evenly coat. Spread out into an even layer. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring twice during the cooking process, until the sweet potatoes are tender and chickpeas are slightly crispy. Let cool while you prepare the rest of the salad.
Place the kale in a large bowl. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over the top of the kale. Use your hands to firmly massage the oil into the kale.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, garlic, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the remaining 4 tablespoons oil.
Add the sweet potatoes and chickpeas to the kale. Drizzle the dressing over the top and toss to coat. Divide among serving plates and garnish with the crumbled feta and pepitas.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.