This seasonal grain bowl is made with kale and quinoa as well as sweet potatoes, apple, and an assortment of seeds.
One of my biggest pet peeves is wilted romaine lettuce so I love kale salads for entertaining because they stand up well to being dressed ahead of time. This recipe is inspired by a kale salad with plenty of seeds at the popular Los Angeles-based luxury grocery store Erewhon with some added seasonal touches like sweet potato, apple slices and pomegranate seeds. The salad is served in a simple vinaigrette made from olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, Dijon mustard and shallots. I like to add grains to salads for a heartier, more filling dish. I find it turns them from a side dish to an entrée course.
My biggest tip to those who don’t enjoy eating kale because it can be such a tough green is to massage the dressing into the leaves and let it sit for at least 5 minutes before serving (kale won’t wilt like other greens). Massaging the kale happens exactly as it sounds – drizzle the dressing over the top then use your fingers to rub the dressing into the crevices to break down the cell walls and tenderize the leaves. I also recommend removing the thick tough stems before chopping the kale for the best texture.
Key Ingredients in This Recipe
Kale – I use Tuscan kale (also called lacinato or dinosaur kale) as the base for this salad. While it’s deeper in color, it’s also more tender than curly kale (and easier to eat). While curly kale can also be used based on availability, I prefer the texture of Tuscan kale for salads. Always remove the tough ribs from the fibrous leaves and finely chop them.
Sweet potatoes – Sweet potatoes are a nutritious root vegetable with bright orangey flesh and naturally sweet flavor. As they are roasted the sugars slightly caramelize giving it a great flavor and creamy texture that complements the seeds in this salad.
Quinoa – Quinoa is a whole grain cooked similar to rice. I cook quinoa in vegetable broth for added flavor, but you can substitute water in a pinch. There are a few different types but white quinoa is the most common.
Pomegranate seeds – Pomegranate seeds can be easily removed from fresh pomegranates or bought already removed from the fruit. It adds a fresh, crunchy element to this dish.
Pepitas – While the pumpkin seeds you remove from the pumpkin are white and thin, pepitas are green and small. They are indeed pumpkin seeds and only come from certain pumpkins that don’t require shelling, namely oilseed or Styrian pumpkin varieties.
Sunflower seeds – Shelled and roasted sunflower seeds come from the center of sunflowers and are high in protein. I recommend buying them shelled for this recipe.
Hemp seeds – The small seeds are high in protein and fiber and are used to add additional texture to the salad.
Apple – Apple slices add a fresh crunch to the salad. I recommend adding these just before serving so they don’t brown. I like gala apples for their sweet flavor, though any other variety can be used.
How to Make This Kale Harvest Grain Bowl
Step 1: Make the dressing.
In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, Dijon mustard and shallot until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Step 2: Roast sweet potatoes.
Heat oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Toss the sweet potato in the olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, then roast until tender, about 20 minutes.
Step 3: Massage kale.
Add the kale to a large salad bowl. Drizzle half the dressing over the kale and massage it into the leaves.
Step 4: Add toppings.
Top with the sweet potato, quinoa, pomegranate seeds, pepitas, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, and apple.
Step 5: Toss and serve.
Toss to combine, drizzling with additional dressing if needed then serve.
Tips and Tricks for This Recipe
Swaps and substitutions
The roasted sweet potato can be swapped with roasted butternut squash or pumpkin.
Swap the gala apples with any favorite variety.
How to prepare in advance
The dressing can be massaged into the kale to tenderize the leaves ahead of time (up to a day in advance), and then you can arrange the toppings for an aesthetic presentation. I recommend waiting to add the apple to the salad until just before serving so it doesn’t brown. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve and then toss just before serving.
How to cook quinoa
To cook quinoa follow these simple steps using a 2:1 ratio of quinoa to water or stock. In a medium saucepan over medium heat bring 1 cup (260g) vegetable broth (or water) to a boil. Add ½ cup (90g) of quinoa, and cook covered on medium-low heat until the broth is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Fluff with a fork.
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