This healthy, fresh and super delicious with chopped kale, chicken, apples, red grapes, and toasted maple pecans.
I'm finding myself doing something these days I would never have dreamed about 2 months ago...
I'm passing right by the raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, sweet corn and melons at the market. Most of them are still available, but those fruits and veggies that thrilled me just a short time ago, now seem quite passé.
As the new season has ushered in cool mornings, falling leaves and chrysanthemums in shades of orange, yellow and purple, it's also brought a shift in my culinary preferences. What's charming me now, as I push my cart through the grocery store or linger at the local farm stand, are vibrantly-hued apples and pears, red grapes, pumpkins, pomegranates, multi-shaped and hued squash and a plethora of hearty greens. Are you with me?
If so, I have a beautiful, mouth-watering salad to share with you today.
This Chopped Kale, Chicken, and Apple Salad actually came into being after a recent trip to the market.
I went into the store without much on my list but emerged with crisp apples, curly kale, plump red grapes, new crop pecans, and a shiny, red pomegranate. A new salad was in the making!
Each time a new season rolls around, I enjoy coming up with a signature salad dressing. One that's versatile and can be used with lots of different seasonal ingredients; a go-to dressing for entertaining as well as everyday meals. Last fall it was a delicious Pumpkin Maple Vinaigrette, winter brought a Clementine Ginger Dressing, spring a Copycat Zoe's Dressing and we enjoyed this Sweet and Spicy Mango Dressing all summer long.
The creation of this particular dressing was actually the result of a trip to Panera Bread. I ordered their delicious Harvest Grain Salad and fell in love with the delightful apple dressing served with it. This is not a copycat recipe, as it's quite different from Panera's, but I was definitely inspired by the fresh flavor of their dressing.
I wanted my dressing to have a burst of fresh apple flavor and tried several methods to achieve this result.
I tried apple cider, apple cider vinegar and fresh apples pureed in the blender, but none of those produced the intense flavor I was looking for. In the end, I achieved the apple-y, explosion of flavor with a simple apple juice reduction.
I think you'll love this Chopped Kale, Chicken and Apple Salad for a fall lunch or brunch. It's a meal in a bowl so it's also perfect for an easy weeknight dinner, especially if you pick up a rotisserie chicken along with the produce. I like to serve it with some warm crusty bread or rolls and plenty of sweet butter.
So, pass right by those raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, sweet corn and melons (if you live in the northern hemisphere) - they're probably shipped from some far away country and have traveled in planes, trains, trucks, etc. Instead, celebrate the season by picking up the ingredients (locally grown, if possible) to make this bright, fresh and super healthy salad!
P.S. Intimidated by pomegranates? I used to be thinking they were a pain to deseed. Nope, I was wrong. I discover this super easy trick for deseeding a pom in less than a minute, no fuss, no mess and no water. Check it out, you'll find yourself eating a lot more delicious and healthy pomegranates!
- For the raisins:
- ½ cup golden raisins
- For the pecans:
- ½ cup coarsely chopped pecans
- 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- For the dressing:
- 3 cups apple juice look for juice that is 100% apple juice, no sugar or other ingredients
- 1 tablespoon roughly chopped shallot
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup sunflower oil
- ⅓ cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- For the salad:
- 6 ounces kale leaves tough inner stems removed and chopped fairly small.
- 3 cups cooked diced chicken breast, I use rotisserie chicken to make things easy
- 6 ounces red grapes halved and then quartered
- 1 medium red skinned apple diced
- ½ cup pomegranate arils seeds
Place golden raisins in a small, microwave safe glass bowl or jar. Add 1 teaspoon of water or apple juice. Cover container with plastic wrap and place in microwave. Cook on high power for 30 seconds. Set aside to cool. (This will plump and soften the raisins.)
For the dressing, bring the 3 cups of apple juice to a boil in a wide, medium size pan (the wider the pan, the less time the juice will take to boil down. Reduce to a steady, strong simmer and cook for about 25-30 minutes, until juice is reduced to ½ cup. Set aside to cool completely.
Combine reduced apple juice, shallots, vinegar and salt in a blender container. Blend on high speed for 1 minute. Pour into a glass jar or other container. Slowly add oil, in a thin, steady stream while stirring vigorously with a fork or small whisk. Continue stirring till oil is completely incorporated. Add yogurt and stir till blended. Finally add poppy seeds and pepper. Stir to combine.
For the pecans, heat a small, non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Add oil and maple syrup and stir. Add pecans and and salt. Cook, stirring continuously for 3-4 minutes or until nuts begin to turn golden brown. Turn out onto a plate to cool.
Add chopped kale to a large bowl. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the dressing over the kale and massage kale with your fingers for 1minute or until kale softens and begins to deepen in color. (This makes the kale more tender and less bitter).
Add the remaining salad ingredients to the bowl. Drizzle another 2-3 tablespoons of the dressing over the salad and toss with tongs for 2 large forks till dressing is evenly distributed. Serve in large, shallow bowls topped with a scatter of the maple pecans. Pass extra dressing at the table.