Friday, December 12, 2014

Kale and Pancetta Salad

Last Year's Post: Sausage and Cheddar Breakfast Strata
Two Years Ago:  Greek Phyllo Wraps with Taztziki

Kale is a superfood and a great addition to your fall and winter food rotation to balance out the heavier foods we tend to eat at this time of the year.  It's sturdy so it holds up well in a salad, and its slight bitterness is offset in this recipe by the sweetness of the fruit and maple syrup, plus the creaminess of the blue cheese.  The pecans add a nice crunch and toastiness.  I especially like to have spiced pecans on hand for salads or rice dishes, because they add a little kick.  If you don't feel like making spiced pecans, you can buy some at Trader Joe's or can use plain toasted pecans (or walnuts) instead.

You can substitute regular bacon for pancetta, and dried cranberries or apricots for the currants. You could even go vegetarian and leave out the pancetta. The recipe calls for fresh apples or Asian pears, so I used one of each.  If you're not familiar with Asian pears, they look like a golden apple and have the crispness of an apple with the flavor of a pear.  They've available in most grocery stores, and are delicious.  Try one for fun.

This salad is definitely substantial enough to be a main dish and it's a welcome change from big heavy dinners and sweets.

 printable recipe
Kale and Pancetta Salad
Serves 4

1/3 cup olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, diced
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 small head radicchio, shredded
8 ounces kale, stems discarded, leaves shredded
2 Fuji or Honeycrisp apples, or 2 Asian pears (or combination)
¾ cup toasted pecans (or spiced pecans, see below)
1/3 cup dried currants
½ cup crumbled blue cheese

Combine the olive oil and pancetta in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, until pancetta is golden and crispy, 8-10 minutes.  Strain the pan drippings into a small bowl to cool and leave the pancetta off to the side to cool.  When the pan drippings are cool, add the vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon, salt and pepper to the pan drippings and whisk well.

Quarter and core the apples or pears, then cut into thin pieces.  Combine the radicchio, kale and apples or pears in a large bowl.  Add the dressing little by little, and toss to combine, until the salad is well dressed.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve topped with pecans, currants and blue cheese.

Spiced Pecans
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
½ cup sugar
1 large egg white
2 cups whole pecans

Preheat oven to 300d.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Whisk the egg white until foamy, then whisk in the salt, pepper, paprika and sugar.  Stir in pecans.  Spread pecans in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 250d and rotate the pan.  Bake 10 more minutes, then immediately spread in a single layer on clean parchment paper.  Let cool before serving or storing. 

Pecans will keep up to a week in an airtight container at room temperature, or may be frozen.

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