Kale Salad w/ Coconut, Pecans & Dried Cherries

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I threw this together a few months ago at work–very last minute–knowing I needed to leave a salad, but not thinking much of it.  It was for my clients and [her] parents, and I knew that the two men of the group would probably email me that night asking if I left any double-stuffed bacon lard duck fat fried baked potatoes with the rabbit food.  Surprisingly, I got a text from the wife saying that everyone absolutely looooooved this dish and it was now a house favorite that needed to be repeated.  That was quite the feather in my nutrition cap because these are totally the Real Men Don't Eat Quiche type of guys.  Now they eat kale.

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Kale Salad with Coconut, Pecans & Dried Cherries

INGREDIENTS: (makes 8 appetizer portions)

  • 1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 3 small bunches lacinato kale, stems removed and cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 3 ounces dried cherries
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Place coconut flakes into a single layer on a sheet tray and roast at 300 F for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Make sure kale is free of dirt, and spin dry after washing.  Place in a large bowl and drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon juice.  Using your hands, "massage" the kale thoroughly with the lemon juice, crushing as you go .  This will take a minute or two and your hands might get a little tired.  Keep massaging until you see the dark green leaves transform into a more translucent, emerald green.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, use a small mixing bowl to make the dressing.  Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, maple syrup and dijon mustard.  Keep whisking and slowly drizzle in the olive.

To finish: add the coconut, pecans and cherries to the kale.  Pour the vinaigrette along the sides of the kale bowl and gently coat all ingredients.  If serving right away, add a little salt and pepper to season.

Chef's notes:

–Lacinato kale is also known as Tuscan or Dino kale.  It's dark green with an "embossed" texture.  The more common Curly kale will work as well.
I prefer the pecans raw in this.  They have a delicious mellow sweetness.
–Look for dried cherries that have nothing added.  If they are big, I like to cut them down.
–Use REAL maple syrup.
–You can dress this ahead of time since kale is a sturdy green, but don't add salt until serving (it will draw out the water and you will have soggy salad).

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