When I first saw a photo Chef Chad Sarno’s Kale Salad presented in a cucumber “bowl”, I fell in love. I’m totally into the “pretty” when it comes to food and immediately decided that I would make my own version one day. Since plants are often thought of as boring or bland food items, making nourishing and good-for-you vegetables look stunning and beautiful is just as important to me as making them taste good. After all, we first eat with our eyes.
This simple presentation of a kale salad wrapped in a bowl of cucumber is simply gorgeous and, best of all, it’s easy to make. You just need a mandolin (or good knife skills) to thinly slice an English cucumber and voilà! Make sure the slices are thin enough to bend easily, but not so thin that they can’t stand up on their sides. I used two slices to make my bowl here. To see a video of Chef Chad making one of his kale salads in an English cucumber bowl, visit here. I like his holiday version with pecans and pomegranates too, but the kale salad within my bowl relies on a time-tested trio of the Middle East—dates, dried apricots, and pistachios. There’s also a wild card, orange blossom water. It makes this salad heavenly. Tasty, healthy and beautiful. Nailed it. 😉
You can find orange blossom water at Middle Eastern markets or some specialty grocery stores. If you can’t find it, substitute with fresh orange juice. It won’t be exactly the same, but will still make a delicious salad.
Kale Salad with Orange Blossom Water
1 bunch lacinto kale also called dinosaur kale (or other leafy green)
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 cup cooked flageolet beans (or other white bean)
1/2 orange, peeled and cut into small slices/sections
3-5 radishes, sliced paper thin
1/3 cup Medjool dates, pitted and quartered
1/3 cup dried apricots, sliced
3 tablespoons pistachios, toasted and chopped (reserve a few for garnish)
1-3 English cucumbers, for serving, optional
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons orange blossom water
1 teaspoon honey, maple syrup or sweetener of choice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and freshly ground pepper
First make the dressing. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined. Taste, adjust seasoning. Set aside.
Remove thick stems from kale and discard. Stack the leaves, roll them into a tight bundle, then slice very thinly to achieve a shredded look. You should have about 4-5 cups of kale which will shrink a bit after this next step: toss kale with about a tablespoon of the dressing. Use your fingers to massage the dressing into each of the kale leaves. This is important, find your Zen while cooking and gently massage your kale thoroughly. It will soften the kale and bring more flavor to your salad. Set aside and let stand about 5-10 minutes.
Using a sharp knife or the appropriate blade on a food processor, shred the brussels sprouts. Add brussels sprouts and remaining ingredients except English cucumber to kale. Toss with about 2/3 of remaining dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding all the dressing, if necessary.
To assemble: use a sharp knife or mandolin to slice the English cucumber very thinly. Your slices should be thin enough for each slice of cucumber to bend easily, but not so thin that they collapse. This part, finding the right thickness, can be a bit tricky. Use two slices to wrap in a form of a circle on your serving plate to form your “bowl”. The cucumber slices will overlap each other. Fill each bowl with the kale salad. Garnish with chopped or grated pistachios.
Note: Feel free to serve the salad without the cucumber bowl too, if preferred.