We’re back! How was the rest of your February? I won’t bore you with most of the details of mine, which was mostly a mish-mash of work and other not-super-fun things, but B2 and I did top off our month with a couple of bright and beautiful days (or, more accurately, just a smidge over 24 hours) in sunny LA this past weekend, which I think is much more worth talking about! I had my first In-N-Out ever (followed by an intense text exchange with my West Coast college brother where I realized all the other things I could have ordered), I ate my weight in Korean BBQ with a couple of our good friends and remembered what really good boba is like, we drove down shiny Abbot Kinney and peeped into Gjusta, and for B2, we meandered into Torrance to find Sunnydale High.
My favorite part, though, might have been a very belated but very delicious Valentine’s Day dinner date we had at The Factory Kitchen on my friend’s recommendation. They served the best seared ahi I’ve ever had, and the best chicken liver pâté (okay, the only chicken liver pâté I’ve ever had, but I feel like it would probably still be the best if I’d had chicken liver before) on yawningly open-crumbed crostini, toasted crisp and crunchy, and handmade egg pasta with marjoram laminated right into it, swimming in veal sugo. Plus, it was so pretty inside that it made me pine for another visit during the day!
I think we were operating on autopilot for 80% of our trip from all the busy-ness from earlier this month, but LA was magical. I can’t wait to go back to the land of endless sunshine (but really, I was blinded when I came out of the airport) for a longer trip sometime soon. (And hopefully more than just six photos.)
But onto this salad! Before all the chicken liver pâté and animal-style double doubles and KBBQ, there was this lifesaver of a salad to get us through our hectic month pre-LA frolic. It was, most importantly, so very easy and quick, but it also neatly ticked off all the boxes I wanted for a good desk lunch — fresh vegetables, a little bit of bright sweetness (of course) from honey and crisp apples, a punch of saltiness from goat cheese and salt and pepper, a good hearty lean meat so that I’m not hungry 10 minutes later, and every kind of texture I could want, from soft cheese to crunchy walnuts and apples, to silky-but-substantial kale.
Speaking of massaged kale, I’m convinced I’m literally the slowest person around to catch onto things (see, e.g., my very first avocado toast), but, at long last, I’ve finally, finally discovered its magic. I’ve always been a little stumped on how to make a big batch salad that didn’t end up wilty by the end of the week, but that’s where kale is perfect — it’s the kind of tough green that you actually want to get a little soft and wilty. As it turns out, it’s the whole point of the massage, to take it from its raw stubbornness (where, half the time, I feel like it’s chewing me) to a slightly wilted, silky-soft green that still has enough bite to feel substantial. Best of all, it just gets more and more flavorful as it keeps. So many other lovely folks have said it better than me (just look at Erika’s baby beet version — with massage action photos! — or Lindsey’s gorgeous fruity one) so let me just conclude that I’m totally in love. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do — even if you already discovered it forever ago!
P.S. If you’re looking for a really stellar LA round-up, or just looking to feel vicariously sunny and relaxed, I was so into Lindsey’s guide before we went! So much is on my list for next time.
Chicken & apple salad with honey mustard vinaigrette
I love making this salad in bulk, because I find the flavor just improves with time. The apple and chicken can be made separately one more time during the week, but a double portion of the kale can simply be massaged on Sunday and kept in large airtight containers until ready to combine with the dressing and the rest of the salad ingredients.
- for the vinaigrette:
- 2–3 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp grainy mustard (I used a combination of whole grain mustard and honey mustard)
- salt and pepper to taste
- for the salad:
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or about 3/4 lb chicken tenderloins)
- 8–10 cups chopped kale, ribs removed (about 2 large bunches)
- 1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 cup sliced apple, any kind
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- 1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles (optional; my favorite is, as always, from Vermont Creamery)
- Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper, then cook to your desired doneness. My favorite method is this one from the Kitchn — it’s the most reliable way I’ve ever cooked chicken breast.
- While the chicken breast is finishing up, I like to make the dressing, which is simple — just whisk all the vinaigrette ingredients together except for the salt and pepper, then add salt and pepper to taste at the end. I like my dressing a bit sweeter, so you may want to start with 2 tablespoons of honey, then add more if you like. If the dressing is too sweet, add more olive oil, vinegar, and mustard until it reaches your liking.
- When the chicken is done, set aside and let cool briefly while you prepare everything else.
- If you haven’t already, slice the ribs from the kale and chop the leaves into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Rinse well, then place in a large bowl. Sprinkle salt to taste over the leaves, then scrunch the leaves vigorously with both hands in a “kneading” or “massaging” motion until the leaves turn a vibrant, dark green.
- Drain any liquid from the bowl, then add the dressing and continue to massage until the dressing is evenly distributed. Divide the kale evenly into two or three bowls (I find this makes enough for a filling dinner for two or about three lunch portions).
- Slice the cooled chicken breast, then top the kale with chicken, sliced apple, and walnuts and goat cheese crumbles if desired. Enjoy!