Kale Salad with Gorgonzola

Once you hit a certain age, for me it was my late 20’s, the imperative nature of eating my dang vegetables very loudly and painfully asserted itself. Don’t get me wrong, pooping is still hilarious, but it’s no longer any laughing matter.

The good news is that eating one’s dang vegetables is a super easy habit to pick up, because the dirty secret about vegetables is that it’s easy to make them tasty as all hell. This is my recipe for kale salad. It is but one of the many methods I have accrued over the years for making some tasty veggies, but since it’s dead easy and requires basically no cooking techniques whatsoever, let’s start here, shall we? Please note that very few quantities or measurements are specified in the following recipe. Just eyeball it! I’m not your dad, I can’t tell you what proportion of the various ingredients you’re going to enjoy most. Eyeballing it is a cornerstone of home cooking, and something you should encourage yourself to experiment with.

First, grab a bunch of kale and rinse it thoroughly, then pat it dry with a paper towel. Most of the available kale has lots of dirt on it, and if you’re like me you’re probably thinking to yourself “Eh, rinsing the kale can’t be that big of a deal, I’ll just spritz some water on it and it’ll be fine,” but I’m telling you from experience, if you don’t rinse the kale thoroughly enough, you will notice. Once the kale is dry-ish, slice the stemmiest bits off of the end of the bunch with a chef’s knife, and then cut kale into thin, bite-sized pieces. Gather your cut up kale into a microwave-safe bowl and splash some water on top of that. Put this bowl in the microwave for one minute, pausing after thirty seconds to give the kale a good toss. The goal here is not to cook the kale thoroughly, rather, we are giving it a partial steaming so that it softens a bit. Set the kale aside once this is done.

Next, we are going to toast up some pecans. Grab a big fistful or two of raw pecans, then use a paring knife to cut them in half lengthwise. This can be very hard to do neatly – you may find that when you try to cut the pecans, some (if not many) of them fracture into even smaller pieces than the ones you were attempting to cut. This is normal and not terribly worth worrying about. Put your sliced pecans in a non-stick skillet/saute pan/whatever you got lying around and begin toasting them on medium low heat. Drizzle some honey over the pecans, and also sprinkle some salt and pepper on everything, then give it a good stir. The pecans will be nice and toasted with a nice honeyed crust after only about a minute and change, so keep a close eye on them and stir them frequently, if not constantly. Remove from heat and let cool, then dump the pecans in the bowl with the kale.

Also dump a bunch of dried cranberries into the bowl, then drizzle a fair but not excessive amount of good, extra virgin olive oil and the juice from half a lemon over the top. We’re not making a proper dressing for this, we’re just going to ham-fistedly combine the constituent elements of dressing into the bowl and call it good. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the salad, then, using whatever implements you have lying around, toss the salad in order to coat everything with a bit of dressing and distribute the ingredients. If you find that large swaths of the salad are looking dry after you’ve tossed it thoroughly, add more oil and lemon juice.

Last, but most definitely not least, crumble a modest but still decadent amount of Gorgonzola cheese into the salad, then toss the salad again as lightly as you can to distribute it. The reason you want to be careful with tossing this, and the reason we didn’t add the Gorgonzola when we were dressing the salad, is that we don’t want the cheese crumbles to smear all over the salad. We want them to stay relatively intact. Since everything else is dressed and distributed, we are free to exert the minimum effort needed to simply get the cheese thoroughly mixed in.

And we’re done! Tasty, right? Who knew that vegetables could be tasty if you just put some cheese on them? Here’s the thing about this recipe, as well. You can use basically any combination of nuts, fresh or dried fruit, and cheese you deem appropriate. Fresh strawberries are excellent in this when they’re in season. I haven’t used fresh blueberries for this particular salad ever, but I can see how they’d fit right in. Walnuts and toasted pumpkin seeds instead of pecans would also not go amiss. Manchego and cheddar work for the cheeses, and I’ll bet goat cheese would work pretty well too, if you’re into that sort of thing. Again, experiment! If there’s a thing you like to eat that you think might work in this salad, try it out and see how it goes. You’re the one who’s going to be eating it, so make sure it is to your liking. You might not always hit on a combination that works super well, but that’s part of the fun, too.

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