This is my current salad obsession and I’ve been making it weekly for the past couple of months. By now, everyone has heard of all the health benefits of kale and about what a superfood it is. It’s true it really is super and not just for the high amount of nutrition in each bite (super crazy amounts of vitamin k, tons of beta carotene & vitamin C, plus a good source of calcium and magnesium), it’s also highly versatile and my go to green for everything from salads, chips, sautés, soups and pesto. One of my favorite things about using kale in salads is how well it holds up to time, which makes it fantastic to make ahead, bring to a party or save leftovers. One of my least favorite things about so many kale salads you find out at shops and restaurants, is the “way too big to enjoy eating” leaves. So my biggest tip for making kale salads great at home, is to be sure to tear or cut your leaves into very small bite size pieces. Smaller bites of kale will be much more tender and a lot easier/more enjoyable to chew.
Now I don’t usually get kale salads when I’m out due to the aforementioned giant leaves issue, plus I cook so much at home I like to get dishes I don’t often make myself, but, I was having lunch with Colin’s sister Glynis at Sweet Grass Grill in Tarrytown and they had a kale salad that intrigued me. It had a creamy cashew truffle dressing and was served with crispy grilled salmon on top. I loved the idea of the creamy vegan dressing and I’m a sucker for tender salmon with a crisp exterior. The salmon did not disappoint and the dressing was fantastic, although I will say when I thought about it later I had no memory of the truffle in it. I went home and searched online for a recipe and found a big fat nothing. So instead, I decided to make up my own, starting with a base of cashew cream and adding to that some of my favorite salad dressing ingredients. I tend to like my salad dressings with a bit more acid and a hint of sweetness and since I don’t usually do creamy dressings this was a bit of a departure for me, but I have to say I love it and it has become a regular in our weekly meals. The first many times I made this kale salad with creamy cashew dressing, I used orange juice for my sweet component, but the last time I sadly found myself with none on hand, so I substituted maple syrup, using about a third of the amount since it is sweeter and I can’t say which I like better as they’re both delicious.
Next on to the Tempeh croutons, I really wanted to make this entirely vegan (although if you’re not, adding a few shards of shaved Pecorino cheese over the top is fantastic) and also make it a complete meal in itself, so I needed a protein and wanted a bit of extra texture too. If you’ve never had tempeh before give it a try. It’s made from soy, but completely different from Tofu. It is fermented which makes it very easy to digest, plus an amazing probiotic. It’s also high in both protein and fiber, which is a rare combination. When marinated and roasted it develops great flavor and a nice crispy texture. I’ve tried a few different brands and really prefer Lightlife to all others.
This salad, complete with the tempeh is a perfect main course, but also makes a nice side salad with or without the tempeh, to a more substantial meal and any leftovers are great for lunch or an after school snack if you have a kale salad loving kid like I do.
Kale Salad with Creamy Cashew Dressing
and Crispy Tempeh Croutons
Author: Sweet Green Kitchen’s Jen Jones
¼ cup Raw Cashews – soaked in water to cover for at least 2 hours
2 Tablespoons Water
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Orange Juice Or 1 Tablespoon of Maple Syrup
½ Tablespoon Shoyu or Soy Sauce – I use low sodium
1 small clove Garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Rosemary
Sriacha Sauce – a few drops or more to taste
1 package Tempeh – diced into bite size pieces (I use Lightlife Soy or Flax)
1 small clove Garlic
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Shoyu or Soy Sauce
Red Pepper Flakes – a sprinkling
1 large bunch Curly Kale – cut or torn into small bite size pieces / ribs removed
Cranberries or Currants – about 2 Tablespoons
2 Tablespoons Sunflower Seeds
Flaked Sea Salt and Rosemary
Dressing: After soaking cashews, drain and rinse. In a high speed blender (I use my Magic Bullet), add cashews, water, olive oil, vinegar, orange juice or maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, rosemary and sriacha. Blend until completely smooth and creamy. This can be made hours ahead or even a day, refrigerate dressing if preparing in advance.
Tempeh Croutons: Combine the Tempeh and remaining crouton ingredients and allow to marinate, either a few minutes, a few hours or even overnight (refrigerate if marinating more than a few minutes). Pour into a baking pan and bake at 350 F for 15-25 minutes, turning once, until desired crispness. Remove from the oven and set aside until ready to serve.
Salad assembly: To a large bowl, pour a little of the dressing into the bottom of the bowl and then add in the kale in batches, pouring a little bit of dressing in layers. Top with the remaining dressing. Mix in the cranberries or currants and a bit of extra rosemary. Toss to completely coat all of the kale with the dressing. Then top with sunflower seeds and a little flaked sea salt to taste. Give it a final toss.
Top each serving of salad with some of the Tempeh croutons.
Optional add ins:
Shaved Pecorino Romano