This superfood kale salad is perfect to enjoy year-round and involves a not-overly-sweet maple vinaigrette that ties in all of the goodness.
I’m so bloated you could use my stomach as a flotation device in the event of an emergency landing. That’s what traveling does to me, no matter how well I eat…and boy, did we eat well. Park City is full of amazing places, and I just can’t rave enough about their food, the relaxed vibe, the outdoors scene, and did I already mention their bougie restaurants that are just to die for? I’ll try to do an Eating Your Way Through Park City post soon. That’s for another day though.
Given my eating indiscretions, I’m back on the healthy wagon and spent nearly $300 at Whole Foods this morning to repent for my sins. I’m craving all the salads this week, so it’s only natural I’d turn to this salad — one of my favorites lately. The fun thing about cooking and recipe experimentation is the ability to make small changes that make a big difference, like the changes made in this superfood kale salad. While Chick-Fil-A is pretty tight-lipped about their ingredients and maple vinaigrette dressing, I think I’ve found a salad that’s pretty damn close…and dare I say…EVEN BETTER.
Better?! Yep. That’s a bold statement. I’ve tricked many a people on our leadership team with which one is the real one (because I’ve actually done both for many of the people). Most people can’t tell the difference and if they can tell a difference, they prefer mine over Chick-fil-A’s. I guess a double-blind super secret taste test is a good way to show you’ve nailed it.
Anyone can put together stuff in a bowl and call it a salad, but not everyone can make a good dressing that ties all of the stuff in the bowl together. A good dressing is critical. Chick-fil-A’s maple vinaigrette dressing is just way too sweet, IMHO. They also tend to drown the lettuce in the dressing like my 3 year-old playing with roly polies in a puddle. Chick-fil-A is also a little skimpy on the other ingredients besides their kale blend in the salad. I’m a kale fan and all but I also don’t want to eat a bowl of kale with an overly sweet vinaigrette. Let’s add more of the other ingredients.
Let’s chat about the ingredients for this salad.
Kale. Chick-fil-A uses a kale blend — which means they put a little bit of kale in their salad and use other, cheaper lettuces. Let’s cut to the chase and just use all kale, k? There’s a lot to say about kale, so read the next section below to take your kale to the salon before eating. Kale likes to get all gussied up. Me and kale share that.
Broccolini. Fun fact: broccolini is trade-marked. Baby broccoli is not, so I’ll use baby broccoli from here on out because I don’t want to get sued by these guys. Baby broccoli is absolutely delicious with a delicate, sweeter taste than regular broccoli and packed with just as many essential vitamins and minerals. The summertime is a great time to find it in the grocery stores because it can be a little elusive.
Nuts. Chick-fIl-A’s superfood kale salad uses a roasted nut blend, which is Southern for I’m only giving you the cheapest nuts. That’s cool. Just use whatever nuts you have on hand. Here, I roasted pine nuts, almonds, and walnuts because that’s what was in our cabinet. (Side note: did you know macadamia nuts are the most expensive nuts in the world?)
Dried sour cherries. Don’t skip these. They make the salad pop with a tart, sweet bite amongst the super serious kale. Try to find dried sour cherries without added sugar though. You don’t need the added sugar.
Maple vinaigrette. I’ve already raved about this vinaigrette, but to me it’s the perfect combination of sweet (from the maple syrup) and acidic (from the vinegar) and really ties the simple salad together. This and this are some of my other favorite vinaigrettes.
Kale: Massage it, massage it good.
I think about 90% of people who don’t like kale don’t like it because it hasn’t been massaged prior to eating. Kale is finicky — it’s large, dinosaur-like leaves are pretty physically tough and can be tough on the gut as a result, but giving kale a quick beauty treatment tenderizes the kale and takes away much of the bitterness. Here’s how to massage your kale to peak satisfaction:
- Take the kale off of the thick stem by simply running your fingers from the bottom of the kale stem to the top. Bye, stems! Break up the kale into smaller pieces, wash, and dry.
- Squeeze lemon juice on the leaves and massage with your fingers for about 2-3 minutes. You want to massage it well with your hands but not smother it so that the leaves become soggy.
The dressing will also help tenderize the kale, so don’t go too nuts on it. If you think kale is too bitter, you can double-wash your kale here, then add more lemon juice and massage again. I don’t find kale terribly bitter though, so I wouldn’t worry about this step.
This salad won’t disappoint. Go and make you some. It’s better than the one you can spend too much on. Guaranteed.
Hope y’all enjoy!
Copycat Chick-fil-A Superfood Kale Salad
For the salad
- 1 bunch baby broccoli
- 1 bunch kale (about 8 cups), massaged and torn into pieces*
- 2/3 cup dried sour cherries
- 1/3 cup assorted nuts, whatever you have on hand**
- 1/2 lemon
For the vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup olive oil, high quality
- 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp zest from one lemon
- 1/2 lemon squeezed
- salt and pepper, to taste
- In a small frying pan, toast nuts for about 5 minutes or until you can smell the nutty aroma. Shake pan constantly so they don't stick. This is when you know they're sufficiently toasted.
- Get a large bowl of ice water ready. Set aside.
- Place baby broccoli in small saucepan filled with salted, boiling water. Boil for 2 minutes. Take out of water and stick in ice water for a minute.
- Place all vinaigrette ingredients in a small jar with a lid. Shake well until combined.
- Using the kale and brococlini as your base, add in the cherries and nuts and toss with the dressing. Serve immediately.