Deb’s Summer Kale Salad

Bucknell University in July feels sticky, smells fresh, sounds quiet. Most students leave during the summer months, so those left behind meander around in slow motion, dragged down by the heat and freed from their usual routines. The lawns are always sharply trimmed, even when few people are there, and construction projects plod along methodically in side lots. It feels relaxing, if abandoned.

This year, we decided to drive through Bucknell on our road trip from Boston to Seattle. We parked our car near the stadium and walked out onto the academic quad, which I’ve walked across a thousand times before, Gavyn (our dog) trailing close behind. Then we let him off his leash, watching as he dashed around the lawn in circles of jubilance, panting because of the heat but happy to be out of the car.

This was a full-circle moment for me: When I arrived at Bucknell as a freshman 9 years ago, I never imagined that I’d someday be moving back to Seattle, driving through campus, with a dog and a husband in tow. Gavyn’s circles temporarily wiped away my frustrations with the school’s weird social norms and painted my memories of the place in a glorious sepia wash. That’s what time does, right?

The sparkle was quickly ruined, though, when Sean accidentally tossed Gavyn’s new toy too high. It got stuck in a tree, so Sean threw his shoe at the toy. His shoe got stuck, too. So then he climbed the tree, almost touching the toy but just barely missing it, ripping his shirt in the process. We walked back to the car laughing, Sean covered in sweat, with one shoe and a ripped shirt, Gavyn panting and looking back behind him every so often, watching for the toy in the tree.

The Bucknell grounds crew is meticulous, but I hope that they somehow missed that purple plastic toy up in the tree. I hope it stays there, that a lonely new freshman sees it and smiles and wonders about where it came from.

Deb’s Summer Kale Salad

Makes 4 servings. Original recipe via the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped loosely
  • 8 oz kale
  • 1 apple, chopped into chunks
  • 3 T thinly chopped red onion
  • 2-4 oz goat cheese
  • optional: 1/2 cup dried cranberries, or roast chicken, or radishes sliced thinly
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1.5 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • 1.5 t honey
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spread the nuts on a baking tray. Toast them for 5-10 minutes, tossing them every few minutes to make sure they bake evenly and don’t burn. Once they’re toasted, remove the tray from the oven and set the nuts aside. (You can also buy the nuts pre-toasted, if you’d like, or use these sweet and spicy nuts.) Turn off the oven.

Next, pull the kale leaves off their stems. Throw away the stems, then use a knife to chop the leaves roughly. Sprinkle 1 t salt over the kale and massage it in a bowl for 3-4 minutes. This make the kale less tough and chewy, and you’ll actually notice that the leaves become darker green and more fragrant, too.

Add the apples, red onions, nuts, goat cheese, and whatever else you want into the salad bowl with the kale.

For the dressing, whisk together in a small bowl: olive oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Pour it over the salad and toss to coat. It won’t seem like enough dressing, but it is! This salad is best after it’s marinated for about 10 minutes in the dressing, so plan accordingly. It also keeps shockingly well as leftovers.

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