I’m usually on salad duty for family gatherings, and Friendsgiving this weekend is no different. Kale packs a nutritious punch during a time when we’re eating lots of sweets and treats. Massaging the kale (aka rubbing it down with oil and vinegar) breaks down the cell walls, making it more tender. The sweet potatoes can easily be substituted with another winter squash, depending on what you have on hand. Tangy goat cheese and balsamic vinegar balance the sweetness, and the toasted pecans and cornbread croutons provide a nice crunch.
The croutons and sweet potatoes can be made a day or two ahead of time, and the hardy kale can be massaged a few hours ahead. That means you can easily assemble everything when it’s time to serve–more time for roasting your Thanksgiving turkey (or drinking wine)!
2 cups cornbread in 1” cubes
1 ½ cups (about 8 oz) sweet potatoes in ½” dice
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 bunch (about 4 cups packed) kale, destemmed
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
⅓ cup (about 3 oz) plain goat cheese, crumbled
⅓ cup toasted pecans
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread cornbread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast cornbread in oven, stirring once or twice, until golden brown and crisp, 15-20 minutes. Can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
Meanwhile, preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil, heat for a minute, then add diced sweet potatoes. Cook sweet potatoes, stirring regularly, until browned and fork tender, 10-15 minutes. In the last couple minutes of cooking, season with salt. If sweet potatoes brown too quickly, reduce heat to medium-low. Add more oil as necessary. Set aside to cool, or complete this step ahead of time and refrigerate in an airtight container.
In a large bowl, combine kale, balsamic vinegar, remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, and a large pinch of salt. Using clean and/or gloved hands, massage kale for 2-3 minutes until dark green and tender, tearing any large leaves into smaller bite-sized pieces. Adjust seasoning if needed.
In bowls, layer massaged kale, cooled or chilled sweet potatoes, crumbled goat cheese, pecans, and croutons.
If making a larger salad, you can roast sweet potatoes in the oven. Toss diced sweet potatoes in oil, then spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 425°F for 15-20 minutes, tossing once halfway through, until fork tender.
For a gluten-free salad, be sure to use a gluten-free cornbread.