Monday, November 07, 2011

Thanksgiving: Simplified, Fall Kale Salad

I looked up the word "feast." It not only means a huge meal, it also means "a delight." Historically, feasts are celebrations that often follow lean times or fasts, or as in a harvest feast (like Thanksgiving) a large meal at the end of the harvest to prepare for the lean winter days ahead.

Certainly, the economy is awful and many of us are cutting back right now. In many ways, it feels like we are fasting as a nation. Time-wise, I often feel stretched thin, too. My work schedule is hectic with trying to maximize productivity now, and the bottom line. I feel pulled to do more and more volunteer work in the face of ever-growing needs.

With headlines full of occupy Wall Street and budget struggles, escalating obesity rates and food insecurity both, never-ending wars, and a pop culture filled with "celebrities" that seem to be rotting from their own excess ... it feels like a good time to cut back ourselves, to simplify and center ourselves on what is most important — our health and time to enjoy family and friends.

This year's menu is inspired so much by my own need to simplify, to eat healthy and well, to enjoy seasonal foods, simply prepared, and shared with loved ones. To spend less, but still have a "delightful" feast. And to create an authentic celebration amidst a period of emotional, financial and cultural "fasting."

Seasonal, local, fall flavors like pears, apples and cranberries lend themselves so well to those traditional rich, savory dishes and sauces, and desserts. However, they also taste great in lighter dishes — dishes you can feast on, relatively guilt-free and that still fulfill the "delight" aspect of a feast.

This kale dish is light, very healthy, but full of seasonal goodness with kale, pears, apples, cranberry and pumpkin seeds. I hate throwing out leftover salad that wilts from the dressing, it's wasteful. The kale here stands up to the dressing, and you can save the leftovers for the next day! By tossing the fruit with the vinaigrette, it prevents browning and you can do the chopping and prep well in advance of the meal, making it easier on you, too.

Fall Kale Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
for the salad
1 bunch kale, washed and torn into small pieces, discard stems
1 apple, diced
1 pear, diced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

for the dressing
2 tbs. cranberry sauce (canned)
1 tbs. honey
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. orange extract

The day before Thanksgiving, wash the kale and remove the stems. Tear into small pieces, and dry in a salad spinner. Store in a plastic bag, in the vegetable crisper of the fridge, with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Add the pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries together in a small container.

Three hours before dinner, whisk the salad dressing together and fold in the apple and pear. Store in the refrigerator.

Before dinner, place the kale on a platter, blend the dressing and fruit again in case the oil has separated. Toss the kale with the fruit and dressing. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries on top. This should just take minutes.

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