There’s been a lot of comfort food around here lately: stews, breads, baked goods. Delicious, but a lot of brown. I’m craving something fresh. How about you? Salads that combine greens, vegetables and grains do extra duty in the nutrition and flavour departments. And as this Kale, Quinoa and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with a kicky Orange Vinaigrette shows, they can look awfully pretty too!
Kale, Quinoa and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
First, A Little Massage
This salad started with a massage. Not for me, silly, it was the kale that got the spa treatment!
Kale is one of those super-nutritious greens — it also tastes good, but in its raw form it’s über chewy. Giving it a little massage is a good way to break down the fibres and make it easier to eat. Being at the cottage without access to the internet when I made this salad, all I could remember about massaging kale was that salt was involved.
So, after chopping and washing it I sprinkled on some salt (too much, as it turns out) and went to town, showing it the love and giving it a good rubdown. When I was done, I gave it another rinse to wash away the excess salt, especially since I didn’t have kosher salt available and had to use regular table salt, which I find has a stronger and less pleasant taste.
The kale was still on the chewy side and a little too salty for my taste. Home now, I’ve had a chance to check a couple of sources, like this one, and I realize I should have massaged the kale longer (at least five minutes), using far less salt and possibly adding in some lemon juice or olive oil. Nonetheless, I’m sure it enjoyed the pampering.
On to the Roasted Sweet Potato and Other Accompaniments
To complement the meatiness of the kale (oh yes, it’s a hearty green), I cut a sweet potato into half-inch cubes and roasted those until nicely caramelized on the outside and creamy tender on the inside. (All the better if you happen to have leftover roasted sweet potato on hand from the previous day’s meal!)
A good portion of quinoa and a smaller amount of brown lentils contributed healthy goodness and texture. Diced red pepper added colour and crunch. This salad illustrates the importance of having pre-cooked grains and legumes on hand so you can quickly combine them with whatever produce caught your eye at the market.
Orange Vinaigrette with Kick
To complement the salad, I took advantage of an orange on hand to whip up an orange vinaigrette with extra kick, courtesy of some ground cayenne. The roasted sweet potatoes stand up well to a bolder dressing than I normally make. That said, you may like even more heat in yours, so adjust the cayenne to suit your tastes.
All in all, this was a super-healthy salad, and a tasty one too. As you might see from the pictures, it was raining lightly but that didn’t deter me from my pre-dinner photoshoot. My Kale, Quinoa and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad got a little wet, but raindrops on the plate add an interesting visual effect. Oh, the things I do for my art!
You can prepare a whole bunch of kale and refrigerate what you don’t need for a day or so, sealed in a plastic bag with as much air removed as possible. Any type of lentils will work for this recipe, except the red ones. If you want to get ahead of the game, serve roasted sweet potato the day before, making extra to reserve for this salad.
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- freshly ground pepper
- 4 cups finely sliced kale (if the stems are tender, slice them thinly and include)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 1 cup cooked brown lentils
Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Toss the sweet potato cubes with the olive oil and a grating or two of pepper. Spread on the tray and bake in the pre-heated oven, turning the cubes occasionally, until nicely caramelized on the outside and cooked through. Remove the from oven and set out to cool to room temperature (you could use them in the salad while a little warm, too).
Wash and drain the kale, then sprinkle on the salt. Give the kale a good massage, working your hands through it and turning it as you go. You’ll need to do this for about 5 minutes, so it’s a good opportunity to do some meditation to really get into the zen of the experience. Or something like that.
Once the kale has submitted to your ministrations and softened to your liking, add the roasted red pepper, quinoa and lentils. Stir until well incorporated. Then add the roasted sweet potato and the dressing, and toss lightly until the salad is evenly dressed.
This orange juice-based dressing marries well with the sweet potato in the Kale, Quinoa and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad, and the small amount of cayenne pepper adds just the right amount of kick.
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp orange juice (freshly squeezed if you have an orange around)
- 1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard
- small pinch ground cayenne (in the interest of science, I used 1/16 tsp)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, and whisk with a fork or small whisk until pleasingly emulsified. Taste with a piece of kale and adjust seasonings if required.
Looking for More Ideas for Kale?
Kale may no longer be all the rage that it was a few years ago, but it’s still a nutrient-rich green that deserves a place in our diets. Check out these recipes: Pomegranate Chicken Thighs with Kale and Grain Salad, Parsley and Kale Salad with Pomegranate, and Kale Soup with Ginger and Lemon.
Published 2013 07 12
Updated 2019 03 08
Republished 2019 04 16
Republished 2020 04 22