Kale Salad With Warm Maple Bacon Vinaigrette

We’ve been eating kale salads for a while.  Pretty much every time I make one my husband says that bacon would make the salad even better.  So tonight I finally took his advice and added bacon.  Not only did I add bacon, I decided to use the bacon grease to make a warm maple bacon vinaigrette dressing to top the salad.  I did a little searching to get some inspiration and I think I came up with a winner.  My husband has a serious aversion to vinegar so I had to be careful how much I used for this recipe.  I added a little lemon juice to make up for the decrease in the vinegar that most recipes suggest.  In addition to bacon, the salad is topped with Parmesan cheese and toasted pecans.  Because I made this as a main dish I didn’t skimp on the cheese and nuts.  If you want to make this recipe as more of a side dish you could always decrease those ingredients to keep it lighter.

kale salad2

Kale is a powerhouse of nutrition.  It makes pretty much any superfood list.  It’s filled with fiber, vitamins A and C, and is only 34 calories per cup.  This week when I bought an organic bunch of kale I only paid $0.99.  You can’t beat that price for such a nutritious food.  Who says eating healthy is expensive?

I’d really like to tell you that bacon is a super food as well but I haven’t ever seen it make the list.  🙂  But, if you eat it sparingly then there is nothing wrong with it.  I’m a firm believer in everything in moderation.  What would life be like without bacon?  Probably not worth living!

I always make my salads chopped salads.  This one is no different.  You will probably never see a salad recipe on this blog where I don’t instruct you to chop up the lettuce really small.  My pet peeve is huge pieces of lettuce that make eating a salad difficult.  You fork a few pieces of lettuce and all the toppings fall off!  Instead, I chop everything up really small and eat it with a spoon.

When we ate this salad for dinner I ate it as my meal and it was plenty filling.  My husband had a small baked sweet potato and some fruit with his.

kale salad

Kale Salad With Bacon and Toasted Pecans
 
Author:
Serves: 3-4
Ingredients
  • 1 small bunch kale, chopped
  • ⅓ cup toasted pecans (pepitas, walnuts, or sliced almonds would be good substitutes)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 - 4 slices bacon
  • 1½ T minced shallot
  • 2½ T red wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar can be substituted)
  • 1½ T lemon juice
  • 1½ tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
Instructions
  1. Cut off the large stems and chop the kale into small pieces.
  2. Place the kale in a large bowl.
  3. Toast the nuts on broil for 2-5 minutes, until just turning dark.
  4. Add the toasted nuts and Parmesan cheese to the kale.
  5. Cook the bacon in a sauté pan over medium heat. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Transfer the drippings to a small bowl and leave the crunchy bits in the pan.
  6. Add 2½ T of the reserved bacon grease back to the pan. (If you don't have enough drippings, you can add in some olive oil to make up for what you are missing.)
  7. Add the shallots to the pan and sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  8. Whisk in the vinegar, lemon, maple syrup, and mustard. Be sure to scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan.
  9. Remove the vinaigrette from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Add the dressing to the kale salad, making sure to mix it really well. Since the dressing is thin you will have to mix it for a bit to evenly coat all of the kale.
  11. Break up the bacon pieces, add them to the salad and toss one more time.
  12. Serve immediately.
Notes
The bacon drippings, maple syrup and vinegar give this dressing a sweet flavor. It would be further enhanced by adding some dried cranberries!
cutting kale

The easiest way to chop kale is to fold the leaf over and cut off the large stem. Then stack the two sides of the leaf and cut down the center once or twice, depending on how large the leaf is.  Turn the cutting board and hold the leaves together and slice all the way down until the entire leaf is cut into small pieces. Do this for each of the kale leaves.

Real Food Tips:

  • Buy organic kale when your budget allows because conventional kale is known to have a high level of pesticides.
  • Buy a block of Parmesan cheese rather than pre-shredded to avoid the cellulose (added to keep it from sticking together).  Believe me, it tastes so much better!  Some stores do have some freshly grated parmesan cheese without the cellulose but it can be more expensive.
  • Buy raw nuts and toast them in the oven rather than buying roasted nuts.  Roasted nuts are often roasted in unhealthy oils.
  • If possible, buy pastured or uncured bacon.  There is some controversy here because even uncured bacon is usually made with celery salt to preserve it.  Some people believe there is not much of a difference, health-wise.  I happen to disagree.  I always try to go for the more natural choice. I’d rather eat bacon cured with celery salt than synthetic nitrates.  Just look at ingredient labels carefully.  Some bacon has added MSG, which is totally unnecessary.

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