Summer temperatures have arrived in Tampa Bay, and with them, my desire to turn on the oven less and eat light meals more suitable for bathing suit season.
Enter this recipe, a Cobb salad with a kale base.
Yes, kale! That once-ubiquitous superfood has taken on its fair share of hype and hate over the years. If you have an open mind and an open stomach, I believe you can learn to love kale.
You don't need me to tell you that it's very good for you. But that's not why I prefer it to most greens these days. The flavor, and in particular the texture, holds up better in heartier salads.
These are the kinds of salads that can also serve as meals, low on the refined carbs and high on the protein and vegetables. I'm just going to come right out and say it - a kale Caesar salad is better than one made with romaine.
And for this salad, loaded with things to keep you full and nourished, kale is the best choice.
It's inspired by a Cobb, which typically includes bacon, chicken, hardboiled eggs and some sort of cheese.
That's where I started, then added carrots, tomato and red onion for a pop of healthful color, plus avocado for even more protein and Gorgonzola cheese because it's what I had in the house.
I topped it with my new favorite crouton substitute: sunflower seeds. Every time I ate from a salad buffet growing up, I piled on sunflower seeds. Something about the salty seeds with a big dollop of ranch just spoke to me.
I've classed it up a bit for this recipe, starting with raw sunflower seeds and toasting them with olive oil, salt and paprika. You could certainly use store-bought shelled sunflower seeds instead, as long as they're nice and salty.
This salad is ideal for meal prep purposes because it uses a lot of components that can be made a couple of days before, then assembled quickly.
For the dressing? Well, I was determined to avoid that dollop of ranch, the calorie bomb often making all the work of a healthy salad seem pointless.
But I wanted something creamy. So I turned to my good pal Greek yogurt. A little Worcestershire sauce helps take things in a savory direction right away, with raw garlic adding a real kick to the plain yogurt. Don't worry - that garlic is mellowed out by a squeeze of lemon juice, which helps bring it all together. Make sure to season it with salt and pepper.
I listed the dressing separately here because you may want to make a big batch and use it on a variety of things, from salad to pizza.
Kale Cobb Salad
½ red onion
1 cup red wine or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
6 pieces bacon
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
½ teaspoon paprika
1 large carrot
½ large tomato
1 avocado, optional
4 cups kale, chopped
½ cup Gorgonzola cheese, or more to taste
Creamy Garlic Dressing, recipe below
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place red onion, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and sugar in a bowl, then stir to coat onions. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the meal.
Place bacon strips on a baking sheet. Place chicken breasts next to bacon, the drizzle with olive oil and season both sides with salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until bacon is browned and chicken is cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. You may need to remove bacon from sheet and place chicken back in.
When both are done, set on a cutting board and let cool for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil, then carefully add eggs and cook for 7 minutes. Remove from water when done, place on a kitchen towel and let rest until cool enough to handle.
When cool, transfer to a cutting board, then peel eggs and roughly chop. Set aside.
Add sunflower seeds to a small skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring often, until toasty. Season with paprika and some salt to taste. Remove from skillet and set aside to cool.
Chop carrot and tomato into equal, bite-sized pieces, then place in a large serving bowl. Cube avocado, if using, and add to bowl. Add kale and cooled hardboiled eggs. Roughly chop chicken breasts (you may not want to use all the chicken; I used about 1 ½ breasts) and bacon, and add to bowl.
Add Gorgonzola cheese and as much dressing as you'd like and toss to coat all the ingredients. Top with sunflower seeds and serve.
Creamy Garlic Dressing
1 garlic clove
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch of black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Place ingredients in a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to crush the garlic, adding more lemon juice or water if the dressing is too thick. It will be rather thick and creamy, but you can loosen it up if you'd like.
Makes about ¾ cup.
Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times