My first love was baking, until my friend Kayla—a self-professed disaster of a baker, who would make a kale salad over a cake any day—showed me how to break out of my measuring-spoon comfort zone and trust my senses: touch, sight, taste. Now, I cook without measuring almost exclusively and take my chances with baking occasionally. (I wouldn’t recommend the latter until you’re, like, a grandma, because it often backfires, as experienced as I am.)
However, cooking without measurements has introduced creativity and nuance into my culinary efforts and, I think, is the beginning of artistry in cooking. I get it, though, it’s hard to move past measuring because of the energy (and clean up!) that goes into the exploratory process. Begin by trying once in a while, maybe when you don’t have folks coming over for dinner; if you bomb, you’ll learn in a memorable, tangible way.
High-risk, high-reward, y’know?
(Take all of the above, and add a grain of salt, because I’m a tactile, kinesthetic learner. You do you, babe.)
In addition to being the eyeball-it-master, Kayla’s the queen of calling audibles in the kitchen, a skill she uses to great effect. Sometimes she can’t re-create a hit, even so, I don’t see that as a true issue: it makes meals at her home all the more special, knowing that each iteration is unique.
Whenever we spend time together, one of us inevitably asks the other: “So, what have you been making lately? Anything you’re loving?” And there always is. She pretends to learn from me as the superior baker, but the truth is I’m always learning from her. I am a lover of routine; she isn’t: I need her to balance me.
This salad is a DeMoss family favorite, a weekly dinner. The simplest version is kale, dried cherries, sliced almonds, and a champagne vinaigrette (which her oldest, Adlai, makes without measuring). Kayla adds chicken when this salad is the main dish, and leaves it off when it’s a side.
My spin on the original adds dates to the kale salad base and substitutes a garlicky tahini dressing (mainly because I didn’t have champagne vinegar on hand). In the spirit of helping you find your jam, I won’t give you measurements and ask that you view my directions as a starting point. Make it yours—you’ve got this.
This time, I added pineapple, apples, and goat cheese, because why not? This salad has proved the perfect vehicle to codify the random odds and ends our Saturday fridge holds.
I think you’ll love this kale salad because it’s:
- Loaded with fresh flavor and texture
- Quick to throw together or prepare in advance
- and easily adapts to whimsy
Let me know if you try it! Tag me @katielepine, or use #mostlyplants.
- A bunch of kale (I used dino here)
- Lots of garlic (a head or less)
- Tahini (eyeball half a cup)
- Juice of two lemons
- Maple syrup to taste
- Olive oil and hot water to thin
- Dried cherries
- Whole or sliced almonds
- Pitted and quartered dates
- Optional: chopped apple, pineapple, goat cheese, chicken, or roasted chickpeas
- Rinse the kale and let it dry on a towel or in a colander while you make the dressing. Tip: Make the dressing in the bottom of your salad bowl. You can even throw the other ingredients on top and refrigerate for a bit, then toss everything together when you're ready to serve.
- I use my Vitamix to whip up the dressing, but if you don't have a high-powered blender, a whisk and garlic press will do the trick. Press the garlic, then add the tahini. You'll want to use a 1:4 tahini to dressing ratio. I eyeball about a quarter to a half cup.
- Add the juice of two lemons, a generous pour of maple syrup and olive oil, then thin with hot water. You need this, because the olive oil will make the tahini thicken. Just add enough water to make the dressing pourable and do a taste test to see if you need more maple syrup or a third lemon.
- Toss the kale in the dressing, then add a handful of cherries, almonds, and dates.
- Add the optional ingredients as you'd like.
Notes: Dressing slightly adapted from this Minimalist Baker recipe. I also use Dana’s method to roast chickpeas, if I want to keep my protein plant-based. I love making a big batch of dressing and saving some for later in the week to toss with greens—I always add some more fresh lemon juice to jazz it up if it’s been in the fridge a few days.