Kale, Apple, Pancetta, and Walnut Salad with Creamy Walnut Dressing

Kale, Apple, Pancetta, and Walnut Salad with Creamy Walnut Dressing

This is a transition salad because it uses produce you can find from early fall through the darkest depths of winter.

Ingredients

For the dressing:

  • About 1/2 cup California walnuts (about 2 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon pancetta drippings* or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

For the salad:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (4 ounce) piece pancetta, finely diced (optional)** (or bacon if pancetta is not available) 
  • 12 ounces kale—stems discarded, leaves finely shredded, (about 6 cups)
  • 4 heads endive, thinly sliced, ends trimmed and discarded, (about 3 cups)
  • 2 sweet apples (such as Gala or Fuji), quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup toasted California walnuts, roughly chopped

Directions

For the dressing:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small food processor or blender with 2 tablespoons of water, a pinch of salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Blend until smooth and add an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons water to thin out the dressing as desired. Dip some kale into the dressing then taste and adjust flavoring, adding more salt, pepper, or syrup as desired.

For the salad:

  1. Optional Step: Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the pancetta. Cook stirring frequently, until the pancetta is browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove pancetta to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside to drain.
  2. Remove all but 1 1/2 tablespoons drippings from the pan and reserve for another use (like the dressing above). Add the lemon juice to the drippings in the pan (off heat), scrape the bottom of the pan to collect any browned bits; then pour into a large nonreactive bowl. Add the apples, kale, endive and dressing and toss to coat. Mound the salad on serving plates, garnish with the currants, pancetta, walnuts, and serve.

Note: When crisping the pancetta, reserve 1 tablespoon for the dressing if you want a smokier dressing flavor; otherwise, use olive oil. To make dicing the pancetta easier, place the pancetta in the freezer until thoroughly chilled, about 10 to 15 minutes and then use a serrated knife to cut it.