Monday, December 2, 2013

Health for the Holidays (Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad)

I've gotten a little carried away with the baking, lately. I love sweet treats as much as anyone else but, "everything in moderation." I like to maintain the balance. For every cookie, there should be a salad. With winter fast coming on, it's not surprising that cold and raw dishes get short shrift. Once you've walked home with frost-rimed leaves crunching underfoot and your breath steaming in the air, it can be hard to get excited for a chilled supper, but contrasts offer their own delight, so as we prepare to bake, roast, and pan fry all the hot and heavy foods that make Thanksgiving great, I'm actually most looking forward to a light yet hearty salad of raw kale and Brussels sprouts.

This salad comes from last year's Thanksgiving celebration, but has established itself as a mainstay in our house. I borrowed a recipe out of Bon Appetit and it became an immense hit with ages two and up. Even my youngest nephews were asking for second helpings and guests were making sure to pack baggies of salad to go. The Brussels sprout and kale are simply delicious, offering something crisp, fresh, and cleansing to pile on the plate alongside turkey and potatoes. The raw greens are slivered finely for delicate texture and offer up a mild, vegetal bitterness, well-tempered with buttery Parmesan, crunching slivers of toasted almonds, and a restrained splash of bracing, mustardy lemon vinaigrette.

Getting dressed
Since Thanksgiving is always such a production, I simplified the recipe a little bit. The slivering of the greens is itself a lengthy process, though the reward is the delicate and lacy texture that makes this dish almost more a "winter cole slaw" rather than a basic salad. With that much effort already gone into the slicing, however, I replaced the mincing of garlic and shallots with a simple squirt of prepared horseradish, adding extra piquancy to play against the other flavors. In addition, kale and Brussels sprouts are both raw nutritional powerhouses, offering substantial amounts of dietary fiber and minerals like thiamin, riboflavin, folate, iron, calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium and phosphorous, as well as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Vitamin B6.

Packed with goodness
To enhance that sense of dietary virtue, I also halved the amount of cheese and oil to cut fat and calories. Less calories from the salad means more you can have from pumpkin pie, and even with less fats, the flavors of Parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil are still more than strong enough to ring true, enhancing and supporting the greens, rather than trying to drive them out. With no need for baking, this recipe saves you precious oven space and can be made ahead and chilled for several days, making your Thanksgiving even easier.

Simply delicious
Raw kale and Brussels sprouts salad, mustard lemon vinaigrette
Adapted from Bon Appetit

A surprise crowd-pleaser, this healthy salad is the ideal counterpart to hearty roasts and heavy sides. Tuscan kale, also known as Dinosaur or Lacinato, offers a more tender texture, but in a pinch curly kale should be just fine. Serves 8-10.

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon horseradish
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 fresh lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large bunch Tuscan kale (about 3/4 pounds total)
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted and cooled
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan

Whisk together the mustard, horseradish, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, then add the lemon juice and whisk until completely combined. Stream in the olive oil and whisk until completely emulsified. Set aside.

It's just that easy
Ensure the greens are well washed and dried, then thinly slice the kale crosswise, making delicate chiffonade ribbons. If you encounter any particularly woodsy stems, fold the leaf in half longways and run your knife down against the rib, cutting it free. Toss the sliced kale in a large bowl.

Claw grip makes for easy chopping
Halve the Brussels sprouts and then slice them thinly from the top, discarding the tough ends. Then add the shaved Brussels sprouts to the kale.

Slashed to ribbons
Add the almonds, Parmesan, and dressing, tossing to combine. Enjoy!

 This post is also available as an article in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

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