Falling for Salad: Baby Kale with Fall Fruits, Pecans and Candied Ginger

I’d love to take credit for the simply brilliant idea of using candied (crystallized) ginger in a salad…but I can’t.

I was at The Porter in Atlanta recently meeting some friends and sharing some craft beers, when a salad on their menu caught my eye…it mentioned candied ginger. Candied ginger! What a fabulous addition to a salad with fruit in it…why didn’t I think of that? I didn’t order it because it wasn’t what I wanted to have with beer that night, but the friend sitting next to me did, and kindly offered me a bite. I had just that one bite…and I knew I had to make my own version the moment the leaves touched my lips! It was a baby kale salad with fruits, nuts and ginger, and I told my friend I was absolutely going to try and recreate this fall salad. And I think my version tastes even better than the bite I remember…full of festive flavors.

Baby kale, which is a bit bitter in its raw state, becomes something quite different when tossed with a cooked hard apple cider and shallot vinaigrette. Then add in some sweet toasted local pecans and crisp local Fuji apples, a Bartlett pear, a bit of candied ginger and this salad really comes alive. I’m not usually one to toss my salads because I don’t like for my greens to wilt under the dressing or to be overly dressed. But I have to say that this fall salad must be tossed to really enjoy the full flavor and to achieve a perfect bond between the ingredients. As the slightly warm and tart vinaigrette coats the sturdy kale leaves it begins to permeate them, creating a wonderful balance to the bitterness, turning it into bittersweet. The candied ginger is a perfect foil for the kale and is a spice match with the apple vinaigrette, fresh apple, pear and pecans.

And yes, if you don’t like kale, you can absolutely use your favorite greens in this salad. In fact, I think you’ll find that my hard cider vinaigrette is a wonderful dressing for any green salad that utilizes fresh or dried fruits, root veggies or nuts. We’ve really, well…fallen for for this salad, and I hope you will, too!

Baby Kale Salad with Fall Fruits, Pecans, Candied Ginger and Hard Apple Cider Vinaigrettte
Makes 4 servings

For the Hard Cider Vinaigrette:
2 large shallots, peeled and minced, about 1/2 cup
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup hard apple cider (such as Crispin)
1 teaspoon honey
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:
8 cups fresh raw baby kale leaves, washed and dried, trim off long stems
20 pecan halves, lightly toasted and broken into pieces
1 Tablespoon finely chopped candied (crystallized) ginger
1 fresh Bartlett or other favorite pear, cored and cut into thin slices
1 fresh Fuji or other favorite apple, cored and cut into thin slices

Heat the 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring until they begin to soften and are just about to start turning brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add the hard apple cider and the honey, bring to a simmer and allow to cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring, until the mixture has reduced by about a quarter. Remove from the heat and pour into a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, kosher salt and black pepper. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified.

In a large bowl, combine the kale leaves, pecans, ginger, pear and apple. Pour over about 1/3 cup of the warm dressing and toss to coat well. Add a bit more dressing if needed to ensure that everything has a light coating of the dressing. Serve alongside your favorite dish or some roasted vegetable soup! The remaining dressing will keep for several days stored in an airtight jar in the fridge.

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46 thoughts on “Falling for Salad: Baby Kale with Fall Fruits, Pecans and Candied Ginger

  1. Love this salad Betsy because I adore wilted greens, and the dressing being hard has a bit of a bite, yum! And I’ve never thought of adding candied ginger either, would you toss in some goats cheese to add some protein and make it a meal? I will try this for lunch on the weekend, for sure.

    • Hi Eva. I think if I added a protein it would be shaved parmesan because it would go better with the vinaigrette and not break down on the kale and fruit when you toss it. The salad as is eats like a meal! :)

      • I should have added that it eats like a meal without a protein (to me, at least) because the kale is so hearty. Having said that, a little parm never hurts and as I replied to Norma below, you could add some grilled pork tenderloin slices for a meat, which would be great with the apples and ginger.

    • Hi Norma, yes hard cider is alcoholic, not that sweet and cooking it evaporates the alcohol. You could use regular apple cider if you wanted and either eliminate the honey or have the dressing be a bit sweeter. As I replied to Eva, the salad is great as is and quite hearty…much more than you’d expect because of the kale. But adding some shaved parmesan would be good, and if you added a meat, I’d add lean pork, like tenderloin, because it would go so well with the apples and ginger.

  2. I’ve not tried kale in a salad yet, Betsy, but then again, I’ve only been eating cooked kale for a few years. Given my parents’ love of bitter greens, I’m surprised that kale was never served. But never mind that …
    This salad has many wonderful ingredients and will tast good whether or not kale is the main ingredient. Your vinaigrette sounds especially tasty. I think we’re all glad you went out with friends that night. :).

    • Thank you, John! This was my first kale salad, too, as I have also only eaten cooked kale for the last few years. The baby kale is quite good and mellows with the dressing nicely. I don’t know that I would enjoy full sized kale as much…it makes me immediately want to cook it when I see it! ;)

    • Thanks Charlie…I’ve made a regular apple cider vinaigrette before and one with just cider vinegar, but the hard cider adds another dimension, I think, and certainly goes well with the salad ingredients.

  3. this looks so good!! :) and yes i agree 100% – pickled ginger is such an awesome ingredient!! really keen on trying it :)

    • Hi DaisyandtheFox, and thanks for your comment. Actually candied ginger is different from pickled ginger. The pickle wouldn’t be good in this because it is so tart and tangy. The candied ginger has been cooked and crusted in sugar and is commonly used in baked goods. I do like pickled ginger, but not in this particular salad. :)

  4. I love the sound of your hard cider vinaigrette, Betsy. I’m never dying to eat more kale — when it comes into the house I deal with it by wilting it and making it into a salad dressed with tahini and lemon. But I would like this vinaigrette on just about anything. My friend Lisa is sending me some Georgia pecans so I might make your salad, perhaps with romaine and some Fuyu persimmons (the hard type).

    • Thanks Sharyn! The vinaigrette is pretty special, and we like it on anything as well. It was perfect for the kale, but I also think tahini and lemon would be great on kale and I need to go back to your post about that now that you’ve reminded me and now that I’ve tasted kale in a salad. I have to say the baby kale is milder than the big guys. So, Georgia pecans and persimmons…sounds so interesting and I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted a persimmon and known what it was…so must try and rectify that…what do they taste like?

      • Well, Fuyu persimmons are crispy like an apple, sweet and … orange, kind of spicy — like warm spices. Not to be confused with Hachiya persimmons which are soft and have to be soft to be edible — otherwise they are astringent. Those are the ones people make into puddings and cookies.

        • Thank you! The Fuyu sounds amazing and I’ll have to see if they are available in my market. I had it in my mind that they had some orange-ness to them, but if I’ve tasted one, it’s been in something or long ago. I don’t see them in menus around here.

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  6. This is the sort of fall recipe I’d love to make, Betsy. The kale is so good for you, I’m always trying to think of new ways to bring it into our meals.. and here it is! I think there are different kinds of candied ginger? Some seem more spicy than others.. which would you recommend?? xx

    • Hi Smidge, and thanks for your comment. I use an organic raw ginger crystallized with organic cane sugar. the result is a dry on the outside and kind of mildly jellied inside, sweet/spicy ginger with a sugar crust. It is not the kind that is combined with strange colors of candied citrus and used for traditional fruitcakes. This crystallized ginger, which is interchangeably called candied and that is confusing, is the only type I’ve seen around here, so I hope my description helps you pinpoint the equivalent in your area. :)

  7. Hi Betsy, you’ve served a perfectly seasonal recipe for us! I have cider vingar that I either get locally or pick up in France, and am wondering if it’s hard. I realise that hard cider is what I know as cider (apple juice is non-alcoholic) so I’m a bit confused but know I would love this combination. And I’d never had thought to use candied ginger in a salad – thank you !

    • Hi Claire, we have apple cider which is sweet and kind of cloudy, and usually with some added spice but is not alcoholic, and apple juice which is clear, sparking apple juice which is carbonated and non-alcoholic, and hard cider, which is alcoholic, not sweet and kind of like beer. I know they make hard cider in France as well, because that was the first I ever tasted. You could definitely make the vinaigrette with sweet cider instead of the hard, and leave out the honey. No matter what you use for cider, the 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar is in addition and is definitely vinegar and not alcoholic…I wouldn’t substitute it for the hard cider. Thanks for you comment and I hope this makes sense! :)

    • Hi Barb, we haven’t had a drop of rain here, just a whole lot of wind for days and quite cold. I hope all is well with you and that you’re not suffering from the storm. Glad you like the salad…the crystallized ginger is so good with the pears.

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