Ever since we moved to the Boston area, I’ve been in a bit of a rut, cooking-wise.
Let me explain.
Before we moved, I didn’t have to go out of my way to find fresh, local produce. I could literally walk down the street any day of the week and find a farm stand full of inexpensive, freshly picked goodness. A 5-minute drive would put me at four other farm stands or farmer’s markets, and even the big grocery stores were pretty well stocked with local produce all summer long.
And it wasn’t just produce; dairy, eggs, grains, vinegar, maple syrup- you name it, I was buying it local. I deeply believe in the importance of supporting sustainable agriculture, both for the future of our planet and the well-being of the people who grow our food, and I felt like I was surrounded by people who supported that same mission.
I took my inspiration from the produce that was available; if there was a mountain of zucchini at the farm stand being sold 4 for $1, you bet I was buying a dozen zucchini and figuring out what to do with it all. As soon as produce came in season, I had it in my kitchen and felt inspired to make a new recipe for the blog using whatever was available.
Now that we’ve moved across the state, I’m finding it more difficult to draw from that same source of inspiration. Yes, there are a handful of farms I could take a 45-minute drive to, and there’s a Farmer’s Market every Friday in my town (which, by the way, I cried after I visited for the first time; compared to the bounty of western mass, it was thoroughly depressing), but my heart is still out in western mass and my kitchen is carrying the weight of my heartache.
That’s not to say I’m miserable; I’m enjoying myself in our new home. I walk or bike to the beach almost every day, am exploring new places, and love that I am a short hour’s drive to the cape to visit my family. The downside is really just that I’m struggling to find my groove in the kitchen. There’s still been plenty of chocolate inspired baking going on, but most of the savory meals I make have just been thrown together and, while satisfying at the time, have not exactly been blog-worthy.
Until this salad. This Thai Kale Salad is literally bringing me back to life with it’s fresh, crunchy veggies, sweet mango slices, creamy avocado, and slightly spicy peanut dressing.
As a person who has spent the past decade downright excited to eat vegetables, and the past month fairly meh about them, I think you can trust me when I say: this salad is a game changer.
To start, you’re going to thinly slice a boat-load of veggies (+fruit!). I’m talking cucumbers, red pepper, kale, red cabbage, cilantro, scallions, avocado and mango. If I had seen some good-looking sugar snap peas or carrots, they probably would have joined the party too. I didn’t, so they didn’t.
Once you have a mountain of produce on your cutting board, you’re going to whisk together the peanut-ginger dressing in a big bowl, then dump everything into the bowl right on top of the dressing and toss it all to combine. Then, just for fun and maximum crunchitude, a big handful of roasted cashews gets sprinkled on top.
The peanut-ginger dressing is loaded with- you guessed it- peanut butter and ginger, but also has some stars like soy sauce, lime juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for a perfectly thick, creamy, salty, spicy, slightly sweet sauce that coats every crinkly little leaf of kale in it’s saucy goodness. Instead of biting down on a tough, fibrous piece of kale in every bite, you end up with a slightly wilted, spinach-like kale that is really just a vehicle for the dressing and all those chopped veggies.
For the pictures, I tossed just the kale and cabbage with the dressing then layered the veggies on top to make it look puuurdy, but ended up tossing everything together at the end because, although not as beautiful, this salad tastes best when every bite is coated with the dressing.
Allergic to peanuts? Fear not, I’ve tried this with almond butter and tahini instead of the peanut butter and loved them both equally. Feel like a salad isn’t a meal without a clearly defined protein source? I’ve enjoyed this salad with edamame or chickpeas on top for a little extra plant-powered protein boost, but I think the flavor profile of this salad would be great with any cold leftover meat of your choice (think salmon, chicken, steak, etc). Going to a pool party or backyard barbecue? I’d double the recipe, put the dressing in the bottom of a big plastic container (or bowl with a lid), pile on the veggies, and wait to toss it until I got to the party. Since there’s nothing highly perishable in the ingredients, this salad could sit at room temperature for a few hours and still be great!
However you make it, you need this salad in your life ASAP. Other than all the chopping- which I actually find quite therapeutic- this salad is made in just one bowl and is the most enjoyable to eat a mountain of vegetables for a meal. It might even help pull you out of a cooking rut, should you be struggling to find creative ways to cook or eat vegetables lately. If you happen to make this salad, let me know how it turns out! Leave a comment below, or take a picture and share it with me on Instagram so I can see your big, beautiful salads!
- 1 bunch kale, stems removed*
- 1/2 small red or green cabbage*
- 1 red pepper
- 1/2 large cucumber
- 1 mango
- 1/2 an avocado
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- 8 scallions
- 1/4 cup roasted cashews
- 1/4 cup all-natural peanut butter
- 1/4 cup water
- juice from 1 lime
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 Tablespoon maple syrup or honey
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated on a microplane
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
- 1. Finely shred the kale and cabbage with a knife (alternately, you can use 6-8 cups of pre-shredded kale/cabbage mix). Slice the red pepper, cucumber, mango, and avocado into thin strips. Roughly chop the cilantro and scallions.
- 2. Make the dressing in the bowl you are going to serve the salad in by whisking all ingredients together until thick and creamy. Add all veggies/fruit on top of the dressing, and toss well to combine. Top with cashews, and serve.
- 3. This salad is best on the first day it's made, though it will keep well in the fridge for up to 2 days. If you're making this in advance for a party, I recommend leaving the dressing in the bottom of the bowl/storage container, piling on the kale, cabbage, and veggies, and NOT tossing the salad with the dressing until you're ready to serve. That way the vegetables won't soften too much or get goopy from the dressing.
- *A 10-oz package of pre-shredded kale and cabbage can be used instead, if desired. I sometimes buy a bagged blend called "Cruciferous Crunch" at Trader Joe's that has shredded kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts, and works beautifully in this salad.
- This salad serves two people as a meal, but 4-6 as a side, depending on what else you're serving. If you want to bring this to a party, I think doubling the recipe will yield plenty of salad for a big crowd.