As I was writing this post I got to thinking about how long it’s been since I posted a kale salad recipe on the blog. Turns out it’s been a while: the last was my tahini mint kale salad, which I shared last March! In other words, I’m overdue, and this maple mustard kale, quinoa & toasted pecan salad is a nice way to get back into the kale salad game.
This is a great kale salad for February. It’s packed with quinoa, golden beets, green beans, and toasted pecans, which together make for a lot of heartiness and nutrition and contrast in texture. What brings the salad together—underscoring the sweetness of the beets along the way—is the maple mustard vinaigrette, which is straight out of Power Plates (I shared the recipe with the harvest bowls, too).
The dressing began as a vinaigrette, and then one of my recipe testers tried it with tahini in place of oil and raved about it. I tried it that way, and I liked the two versions so much (in different ways) that I gave both options in the book. I think the vinaigrette version works better for massaging kale, and in this recipe overall, but you can definitely use the tahini version if you choose to avoid oils.
No matter what, the dressing lends a sweet, salty, and slightly savory (thanks to nutritional yeast!) flavor to the salad.
The salad also benefits from nutty, crunchy toasted pecans. I’ve been working with the American Pecan Council this year to explore and showcase all of the culinary versatility and health benefits of pecans, which are the only major tree nut indigenous to America. Pecans are packed with nutrients, which you can read more about here.
My favorite among pecan’s nutritional highlights are their beneficial, monounsaturated fats and protein, which can aid in satiety after meals. They’re also a good source of fiber and contain plant flavonoids, which are a type of phytonutrient. The food lover in me loves their slightly sweet flavor, which works nicely in all sorts of dishes.
This salad qualifies as a power plate, thanks to protein-packed and complex-carb-rich quinoa, plenty of good fats from the pecans, and lots of veggies. It’s nice for a light lunch, but it’s an even more filling and nutritious meal if you pair it with a cup of soup, a slice of hummus toast, or some baked tofu or tempeh. It’ll give you four generous servings, or—if you’d like to serve it as an appetizer—6 smaller ones.
For the salad
- 4 golden beets or however many you have from one small bunch
- 3/4 cup dry quinoa, rinsed through a fine sieve (or 2 cups cooked quinoa, if you’d like to prepare the grain ahead of time)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup green beans chopped
- 2/3 cup pecan pieces
- 1 small bunch curly kale stems removed and chopped (about 5 ounces after preparation)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the maple mustard dressing:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or tahini
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon tamari Bragg Liquid Aminos, or coconut aminos
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 11 ⁄2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 to 2 tablespoons warm water if needed
Preheat your oven to 400F. Trim the beets and wrap each one in foil. Roast for 40-45 minutes, or until the beets are fork tender. Allow them to cool for ten minutes or so, then run them under cold water and slip the skins off (they should come off very easily; if you coat the beets with a little oil before roasting, the skin removal is even easier). Chop the beets and set them aside.
While the beets roast, add the quinoa and water to a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the quinoa, and simmer for 8 minutes. Uncover the pot and throw in the green beans, then recover and continue simmering the quinoa for 5 more minutes. Remove the quinoa and beans from heat and allow them to stand for 5 minutes. Fluff the grain with a fork, re-cover, and allow it to sit until you need it.
Place a small frying pan or skillet over low heat. Add the pecan pieces and toast, shaking the pan every 30 seconds or so, until they smell nutty and toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pieces to a plate right away (they’ll keep cooking if you leave them in the pan).
To make the dressing, combine the oil, maple syrup, mustard, tamari, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and nutritional yeast in a small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk to combine. If the dressing is thicker than you’d like, whisk in the warm water as needed. (Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the dressing will keep for 1 week; it makes ½ cup.)
When all of the ingredients are ready, add the kale to a large mixing bowl, along with 3 tablespoons of the dressing. Massage the dressing into the kale, rubbing the pieces between your fingers, until the kale is softened and well coated with dressing (but not soaked; you’ll be adding more vinaigrette in a second!). Add the cooked quinoa and green beans, beets, and pecan pieces to the mixing bowl and mix everything together. Keep adding dressing until the salad is dressed to your liking. Taste and add salt if needed and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve.
I can definitely imagine making this salad for a potluck lunch with friends sometime before winter’s end here in the city. For now, I’m enjoying the leftovers all on my own. Like all kale salads, this one keeps pretty nicely: a full two days in the fridge after you make it. Quick weekday lunches for the win.
I’ll be swinging back around this weekend with the usual link love; for now, wishing you a good week ahead.
This post was sponsored by the American Pecan Council. All opinions are my own. Thanks for your support!