When I move to a brand new city, where I know NO ONE (which happens more than I ever thought it would), my method of choice for making new girlfriends is to start a book club. Thank goodness for meetup.com – I have zero clue how people met new friends before the Internet!
I started such a book club here recently, and we had a great turnout for our first meeting. (15 girls and more on the wait list – I’d call that a success!)
I asked everyone to bring a vegetarian-friendly dish to share with the group, and these girls totally impressed me! We had quinoa salad, pumpkin pie dip, fruit platters, hummus, stuffed mushrooms, and much more. But one girl brought a dish that totally stole the show for me – a kale salad with roasted sweet potatoes. I knew I had to replicate this immediately.
The original had goat cheese and red onions, but I went a different direction to keep it vegan-friendly and incorporate even more fall flavors. I really just threw a few things together and hoped for the best, and I was SO pleased with how it turned out.
The kale got nice and wilted from the EVOO massage, the sweet potatoes balanced the kale’s bitterness with a creamy sweetness (who knew?), and the walnuts brought the crunch that’s so essential in a salad like this. This combo was great on its own, but I also threw in a few cranberries because FALL. (insert fall leaf emoji series because I’m #basic.)
I love this type of meal because it’s SO simple. Six ingredients, and only a few minutes of hands-on time.
The first thing you’ve got to do is get those sweet potatoes roasting. I like to cube them up pretty small, around 1/2-1″ pieces. It’s best if some are bigger and some are smaller, so don’t stress too much over making them perfect. The smaller pieces will crisp up really nicely and the bigger ones will stay creamy and beautiful.
Forty minutes in a hot oven = sweet potato heaven.
While the potatoes are roasting, you’ll give your kale a nice massage in olive oil and lemon juice. Though it’s still raw, this allows the kale to wilt slightly, making it much more palatable and delicious.
It takes about five massaging minutes to transform from dusty, tough, pale kale into vibrant, tender, superhero kale. Hard to capture on camera, but you’ll feel it when it’s ready. (Or for the practical-minded, just set a timer.)
You COULD stop here, but do yourself a favor and chop up some walnuts and cranberries while you’re still waiting on those sweet potatoes. The combination is a fall flavor explosion!
Kale and sweet potato salad with cranberries and walnuts
- 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large bunch kale
- juice of ½ lemon
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup chopped dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Peel the sweet potatoes and dice into ½-1" cubes.
On a baking pan covered with foil, mix the cubed sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the teaspoon of salt.
Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. At the 25 minute mark, check for doneness. For added crispness (optional), increase the heat to 400 and continue to bake, checking every 5 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, you'll attend to the kale. First, rinse it under cold water, making sure any to remove any gritty residue. Next, rip the leaves off of the stems. Do NOT chop the kale while it's still attached to the stem. You'll end up with terrible, tough stem pieces in your salad, and you don't want that!
Rip the kale further into bite-sized (or smaller) pieces. You can also use a knife, but where's the fun in that?
Place the kale in a large bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the juice from one half of a lemon, then proceed to massage. Really get your hands in there and work that kale. The more you massage it, the more tender the final result will be. I try to go for about five minutes or until the boredom is just too much to bear, whichever comes first.
If your walnuts aren't pre-chopped, chop them into small, but not TINY, pieces.
Same goes for the cranberries. I just run my knife over them once or twice, and we're good to go.
When the potatoes are ready and crisped to your liking, toss everything into the bowl with the kale. Mix it all up to combine, and then enjoy!
This salad tastes amaaazing when the rest of the ingredients are cool but the sweet potatoes are nice and warm. However, it’s great the next day when everything is chilly from the fridge, too! I’ve made this twice in the past couple weeks, and both times, I’ve eaten it out of the fridge for days afterward. It’s a no-miss lunch, a great light dinner, and an awesome fall side dish.