Composition of a perfect Thanksgiving salad

Treat your salad like a composition with endless flavor possibilities

Thanks to vaccines and boosters we are resuming our longstanding tradition of traveling to Chicago to be with my family for Thanksgiving this week. For the past several years we’ve gathered at my dad and stepmom’s home where our blended family each gets assigned a dish to be responsible for. Surprising to none, I’ve been assigned the salad once again this year.

While some may view the dish as a simple side, I revel at the opportunity. Unlike the traditional Thanksgiving fixings like turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes – a salad offers endless possibilities to bring color, flavor and texture to what can be often be a bland looking table. When planning a salad, especially for a big gathering like Thanksgiving I like to think of the dish as a composition. Each component an opportunity to play off the other. I love treating it like a canvas to feature seasonal ingredients especially ones that add pops of color like watermelon radishes and pomegranate seeds or dried tart cherries and cubed sweet potatoes. One of the reasons I love creating salads is that they’re so naturally versatile and can be customized to whatever ingredients you have access to or the preferences of your guests.

While we’re not hosting the main event this week we did have a small Friendsgiving where I got to give my favorite side a whirl. I decided to make a Kale Salad with Watermelon Radishes, Pomegranate, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Pecorino. I started with a dressing from Susan Spungen’s Famous Kale Salad and then got creative with ingredients I was able to find at the farm-stand and in my own pantry. You could easily add cooked farro or another grain to the salad to elevate it to a main dish or more substantial side. The key to making this salad is to massage the dressing into the kale prior to serving (which I admittedly forgot to do last night) but it helps tenderize the kale which can be a little tough. Next week I may go a different different direction as some members of my family strongly protest kale but have included the recipe below. Start with making the dressing and prepping the kale a day ahead and then finish your composition with whatever toppings make you happy!

Kale Salad with Watermelon Radishes, Pomegranate, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Pecorino


Adapted from Susan Spungen’s Famous Kale Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbs dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot (about 1/2 of a big shallot)
  • 1/4 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 large bunches of kale, center stem removed and chopped
  • 2 watermelon radishes peeled and thinly sliced and then cut in half moons
  • 1 cup finely grated pecorino cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Seeds from 1 pomegranate

Directions

  1. For dressing, combine lemon juice, mustard, shallot and salt in a mason jar. Slowly pour in olive oil, covers nd shake to combine. Dressing can be made up to a day ahead of time.
  2. Prior to serving, mix dressing with kale, gently massaging until kale is slightly tender. Add toppings.
  3. Alternate topping combinations: Honey crisp apples, gorgonzola and walnuts; Cubed sweet potatoes, cooked farro and dried tart cherries; Roasted beets, feta cheese and pecans.

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