When you’re deep in the throws of a Midwestern winter, you learn to make your own sunshine. And for me, sunshine has entered my life in the form of richly sweet winter citrus. Back home in Texas, we go through a bag of clementines every other day thanks to my mom. My dad loves a glass of his classic orange juice every morning. And my brother lives for grapefruit slices. You could say that in our family, we have a thing for citrus. And of course, when I discovered sumo oranges this winter for the first time (I know, how did I go this long without them?!) my obsession with tangy segments of fruit only grew. In an effort to find more ways to get all my winter citrus in, I figured it was time to upgrade my lunch time routine with the ultimate sunshine kale salad.
When done correctly, a kale salad might be one of my favorite meals. It’s everything textural and hearty on one plate. And I love that I can make a large batch kale salad on Monday and it’s still good on Wednesday. It’s the magic of the kale. So what makes this citrus kale salad so special? Let’s dive in.
I have one rule when it comes to salads. Texture, texture, and more texture. Otherwise, a salad is just a bowl of leaves. And that just doesn’t quite work for me. For this salad, the star is obviously the piles of citrus segments.
How do I get perfectly segmented oranges like at a restaurant?
The key to making the citrus shine is slicing and cutting it properly. Step by step, first slice off the top and bottom of your orange so you have two flat sides. Place the orange on a cutting board so it’s sitting flat, and then run the knife from top to bottom, rounding around the edge, and cutting between the fruit and the thick skin. You essentially want to remove as much of the white pith as possible. Then using a paring knife, slice out clean segments using the white pith segment lines as your guide. It’s much easier once you butcher a few oranges. If you like visual, here is a great step-by-step example.
What do you do with all the leftover peels and fruit that gets cut off? First, squeeze out all the juice from the peels and the leftover citrus cores. You’ll use some in the dressing and the rest is delicious for an afternoon drink. You can also use the peels to make homemade cleaner if you want to get crafty!
For the rest of the salad, I wanted to play into all the other great texture and flavors that would work well with tangy citrus.
Breadcrumbs Are Better Than Croutons
Hot take, but croutons are overrated. I am officially on team breadcrumbs and now have a permanent box of panko in my pantry. Especially for this salad, I love the crunch that sticks to every bite. To toast your breadcrumbs, just add a little bit of oil to a large pan on medium heat. Add your panko breadcrumbs to the pan and toss around for a few minutes until they turn golden brown. Be careful not to over-toast your crumbs!
Breadcrumbs also take any caesar salad to the next level. Just saying.
Hit Every Flavor Note
Like the formula for a good salad dressing, the checklist for a good salad is a must to memorize.
You’ll need your base ruffage, something crunchy, something creamy, something acidic, and something sweet. And in this case, something spicy as well. I find that this really helps keep a salad interesting and delicious, while hitting a variety of flavors that make the plate exciting to eat. Here, we use kale as our base. (Note: Be sure to massage your kale. Camille shows exactly how here!) After the kale, breadcrumbs add crunch, avocado brings creaminess, our citrus lends a bright and acidic bite, and our tahini-based dressing (with honey!) balances it all out with a bit of sweetness. I also used Thai chilis and jalapeños to add a little kick, but you can leave those out l if you don’t want to get too spicy. Everything good is in this kale salad. Don’t be surprised if you finish the whole batch in one go!
Did this kale salad blow your mind, too? Let us know what you (and your tastebuds) thought in the comments!
- 1 large bunch of lacinto kale, chopped
- 2-3 oranges, grapefruits, or citrus of choice, segmented
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 1/2 small jalapeno or pepper of choice, thinly sliced (optional)
- toasted panko breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper
for the dressing:
- 1/4 cup of juice from citrus peels and cores
- juice from 1/2 large lemon
- 3 tbsp of honey (more to taste)
- 1/2 cup of tahini
- 1/2 jalapeno or pepper of choice (optional)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Make the dressing. Add all of the ingredients to a small blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust as needed.
- To prep the salad, add the kale to a large bowl. Add 1/2 of the dressing to the kale and massage until kale is shiny and a deep emerald green color.
- Assemble the salad by adding all of the other ingredients to the kale. Toss with additional dressing as needed.
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