The salad that never ends

Every time I make this salad, I get stuck with it for days.

The amazing salad with a sort of haphazardly assembled chicken Milanese.
The amazing salad with a quickly whipped up version of pecan-crusted salmon.

Now, let me explain.

If you make too much of it and have to eat it for days, it becomes the embodiment of “too much of a good thing.” To really preserve the love you’ll have for this when you make it, I suggest preparing enough of it for two meals: one while it’s warm on the day of and once leftover and cold. Too much longer than that and the homemade dijon vinaigrette tends to settle oddly on the vegetables. Plus, things start to turn…well, beets dye everything, and red avocados and pink Gouda do not look appetizing.

Don’t let me turn you off to this, though. This is one of the most flavorful and satisfying salads I’ve ever made, but it’s a very specific bouquet of tastes and textures. With kale and Brussels sprouts, there’s that wonderful crisp snap of green veggies that also provides a sort of base layer to the flavors. The Gouda and avocado provide a softness that’s still firm; the mildness of the avocado complementing the sultry flavor of Gouda. The walnuts and beets are earthy and balance the leafiness and the softness with their hearty textures. A dijon vinaigrette made with a bit of apple cider vinegar kicks the mildness and baseness of the other items in the ass (more on that in the recipe portion). The only wild card would be the sundried tomatoes, which I’ve left out before and not really noticed much.

Another benefit of this is that it goes with several things. I actually decided to write about it simply because it’s been the sidekick (or are the other items the sidekicks? That’s up for debate. You tell me) to so many different things, and I had a handful of photos. To be fair, there’s a fish in three of these, but I have done it with chicken Milanese, steak, and by itself before, all with equally delicious results.

The salad that never ends alongside garlic and rosemary couscous and grilled alderwood wrapped lemon-herb salmon. Click the photo for Wildwood Grilling’s excellent recipe with cedar. Alder gives a smokier flavor than cedar, but can be more difficult to find in some areas. Maybe a wood-wrapped fish post is in order
Here’s the salad again with herbed oven-roasted potatoes (thyme, rosemary, basil, and dill) and a grilled burger on a pretzel bun with kale, port wine mayo (quickly whipped together), and Stilton. Another one I might feature here since I’m remembering it pretty fondly.
Really quick and dirty (the food and the bad photo lighting). The salad with a Cajun-spiced pan-fried tilapia and lemon butter and parmesan couscous.

A second side isn’t necessary, but if you do want a grain, it was much better with couscous than it was with potatoes. Potatoes were not a failure, but the couscous was such a better fit because it has a light flavor and delicate mouthfeel (that’s such a weird word, but there’s no other way to describe it). The salad has a lot of different robust textures that would be lost with a heartier grain than couscous or the thinly sliced potatoes.

Enough stroking the outcome. Here’s the process:

One of the last great things about this is how you can feel free to adapt this to any specific diet plans or “no fly lists” and still get excellent results (I’ve made it for nut-allergic friends and lactose intolerant friends. Still a hit). If you can do so without problems, though, try the recipe as is once before you make changes (like bacon. Bacon is an acceptable change to this).

Whatever you do, try to keep the beets and sprouts; they drive the whole experience.

Set the oven to 350.

What you’ll need (notice there aren’t specific amounts on the veg; feel free with them):

  • Kale (one bunch)
  • Brussels sprouts (one package or stalk, however you buy them)
  • Red beets (two or three)
  • Raw walnuts
  • Avocado (or half)
  • Smoked Gouda (other cheeses will work, but I highly recommend Gouda. It’s…no…I won’t…you can’t make me. USE GOUDA; IT’S GOOD-A! I wish I could say I was sorry.)
  • Sun dried tomatoes (use the ones with oil; you’ll need it)

For the dressing:

  • Lemon (quartered)
  • Garlic (one clove, minced)
  • Apple cider vinegar (2 tablespoons; secret: I hate this stuff and tolerate it in increments when necessary. The smell makes me queasy. I usually only use about a tablespoon of it)
  • Olive oil (1/3 cup)
  • Dijon mustard (1 teaspoon or more to taste)
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Prep the kale: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. TRUST ME. Wash thoroughly and strip kale leaves from stems. Rip the leaves into bite sized pieces. Dry completely and put in a bowl. Coat lightly (go easy, guys) with olive oil and massage kale leaves. Let them sit while you prepare the rest of the salad. This is the key to tender and not bitter kale!
  2. Cut up the beets into small chunks and Brussels sprouts into quarters. Coat in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake at 350 until tender.
  3. In the last 5 minutes add the walnuts so they get a little toasted.
  4. Cut up the avocado, gouda, and sun dried tomatoes into little chunks. Add to the bowl with the kale.
  5. When the baked sprouts and beets are tender to your taste and the nuts are toasted, add them to the mixture while warm but not while hot.
  6. Dressing: Mix the olive oil (about a 1/3 cup), apple cider vinegar (about 2 tablespoons if you want to make it very tart; cut back if not), dijon (about one teaspoon. Adjust to taste), juice from quarter lemon, and garlic (one clove minced). I like to add a little of the sun dried tomato oil in here, too. This is optional, but it cuts the tartness some. Another way I’ve cut the tartness is with a drop or two of honey, but my sister really enjoys the bite of the dressing as is so I’m sure that’s just a taste preference for me. Make it according to the measurements, and it should taste quite good if not a little piquant.
  7. Pour over the salad mixture. Toss well and serve.

Let me know what you served with your salad. 

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