I heard there is an election happening, but I’m not going to talk about it because this is a food blog and that’s not why you’re here. All I am going to say is that I do hope you will vote today or that you have voted. We’re taking Mr. Picky and our exchange student to the polls. Kind of cool for our South Korean friend to witness our electoral process during an historic election, don’t you think?
I have been teaching Thanksgiving classes for the last two weeks and no one is talking about the election in my kitchen. It’s all about food and menus and getting organized. Lots of chatter about turkeys and stuffing recipes and which pies to make. It’s such an exciting time of year if you love to cook or eat or feed people or all of the above.
My Thanksgiving menu has evolved a great deal in the last 21 years of my marriage and is also very different from what we made when I was a child. I have definitely placed more of an emphasis on seasonal vegetables and fresh side dishes. Not that there’s anything wrong with turkey and mashed potatoes, but that’s a boring plate of food which needs some help.
By now, kale salads are commonplace. You don’t need to explain to anyone what it is (unless that person is a 14 year old from South Korea who has never seen kale ever.) This one though is the perfect salad for Thanksgiving — delicious, light, colorful, easy to prep ahead and tastes great with turkey. In fact, if you don’t make it for Thanksgiving, make it the next day and add cubed leftover turkey to it.
As with any kale salad, you must physically massage the leaves with dressing to soften them up. Also, see the notes within the recipe about what you can do ahead so that you are merely assembling on Thanksgiving. My mother-in-law’s friend called me one year on Thanksgiving at noon to ask if I had a recipe for candied walnuts. LOL. Noon on Thanksgiving day is not a time to be looking for a recipe for anything, let alone a “luxury” item like candied nuts. I did not indulge her. Get your menu finalized soon, or at least before next weekend because there’s lots you can do ahead. My husband and I might test Thanksgiving cocktail recipes tonight because if there were ever a night I would need a drink, it’s tonight! Here’s looking forward to Thanksgiving!
- Cornbread Croutons:
- ½ (or less) of an 8x8 cornbread (recipe on pamelasalzman.com)
- Unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil
- Sea Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sweet & Spicy Pecans: (or buy them from Trader Joe's)
- 1 cup whole pecans
- 1 Tablespoon unrefined coconut oil, melted
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt + more for sprinkling
- Pickled Onions:
- 1 small or ½ large red onion, sliced very thinly by hand or using a mandoline
- ¼ cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons minced shallot
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- A few twists of freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar (or the vinegar used to pickle the onions)
- 2 Tablespoons natural-style apple juice, preferably organic
- 2 teaspoons 100% pure maple syrup
- 6-7 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 bunches black kale (a.k.a Tuscan, lacinato, or dinosaur kale), about 12-14 ounces, washed and dried
- ⅔ cup pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries
- To make croutons, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cornbread into 1” cubes or desired size. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Bake for 15-25 minutes or until golden brown and slightly crispy. These can be left out to dry out for the rest of the day or can be done days in advance.
- When croutons are finished, turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, syrup, spices, rosemary and salt.. Drizzle oil mixture over pecans and toss to coat. Sprinkle with additional salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until toasted. Can be done the day before.
- To make pickled onions, place sliced onions in a bowl and cover with the apple cider vinegar. Let sit for 20 minutes. Can be done the day before and refrigerated. Remove from vinegar before adding to salad.
- Prepare the dressing: whisk all the ingredients in a small bowl until emulsified or place all dressing ingredients in a glass jar with a lid and shake until emulsified. Can be made several days in advance.
- Strip the kale leaves from the stems and compost or discard the stems. Finely shred the leaves with a sharp knife. Place in a serving bowl.
- Add enough dressing to coat the kale lightly. Massage the dressing into the kale leaves with your hands to soften the leaves. Add the croutons, pecans, pickled onions, and dried cranberries.