chicken & apple salad with honey mustard vinaigrette (and LA!)

chicken & apple salad with honey mustard vinaigrette | two red bowls

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.

a day in LA

a day in LA
a day in LA

a day in LA

a day in LA
a day in LA

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.)

chicken & apple salad with honey mustard vinaigrette | two red bowls

chicken & apple salad with honey mustard vinaigrette | two red bowls

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 | two red bowls

chicken & apple salad with honey mustard vinaigrette | two red bowls

chicken & apple salad with honey mustard vinaigrette | two red bowls

chicken & apple salad with honey mustard vinaigrette | two red bowls

chicken & apple salad with honey mustard vinaigrette | two red bowls

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)


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. When the chicken is done, set aside and let cool briefly while you prepare everything else.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. Slice the cooled chicken breast, then top the kale with chicken, sliced apple, and walnuts and goat cheese crumbles if desired. Enjoy!


  1. says:

    March 3, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Welcome back! I actually just went to LA for the first time on a work trip last month. I wanted to run around as I had done extra time in the evenings but I caught a nasty cold and spent every free moment in the hotel bed. Wah. Next time for vacation. As for this salad! I make a version of it every week. I discovered the massage key not too long ago and since then I’ve really appreciated kale more. Love your addition of chicken to it and the Simone vinaigrette.

  2. says:

    March 3, 2016 at 9:11 am

    One day that’s going to say ” From My Trip To Atlanta” 🙂 Sounds like fun times in L.A and I could eat all those pastries in that photo. OMG. I’m not hip to massage kale yet, but I feel like I should be a believer because this salad looks so so good.

  3. Aysegul at says:

    March 3, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Gorgeous salad and photos Cynthia. It has been a very long time since I have been to LA, but now after seeing this I want to go back.
    PS: Massaged kale ROCKS! 🙂

  4. says:

    March 3, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Whooo! Wonderful as always, Cynthia!
    So cool to see your photos of LA! <3 And speaking of food, you know better than me that NY is the great Asian food hub, but I think LA is the real haven of Korean food. I remember this incredible bibimbap I had in a tiny corridor-like restaurant in koreatown there (with Josh! HA!). It was definitely the best I have ever had, and before that I am pretty sure I raided all the Bibimbap places in NY. I'll try Flushing next time I'm there.
    And about that, I am making it a point to come visit the US in 2016 – one coast or another.

  5. says:

    March 3, 2016 at 10:19 am

    So beautiful Cynthia! I saw your snapchat – tea station and in&out and I of course immediately thought of CA!!! I grew up in the bay area and Tea Station remains one of my favorite eats for Taiwanese food and fantastic hot milk tea. I’m so glad you had fun and a well deserved break!!!!

  6. says:

    March 3, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    I love these sunny LA photos, Cynthia! Makes me yearn for more sunshine even though I’m presently in Louisiana and am sunburned to a crisp after just one hour on the bayou. #PortlandPaleProblems.

    And this salad, yes please! Sounds kinda like the perfect healthy plane lunch. I’m always on the hunt for more of those!

    Happy to have you back, lovely lady!

  7. says:

    March 3, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    welcome back, lovely! 🙂 sounds like you guys had an awesome little vacay – yay! this salad, and setup is so dreamy – especially loving that kale massaging shot! xoxo

  8. says:

    March 4, 2016 at 2:40 am

    Welcome back, Cynthia! Sounds like you had the most wonderful 24 hours in LA.
    And yay for finally discovering kale salad! It’s magic, isn’t it? I like the massaging part too – always so relaxing 😀 Kale salad is great to take with you to work as well as it doesn’t wilt like most other salads do (or at least you have to carry the dressing in a separate container and pour it would over just before lunch).

    Hope you have a great March weekend! xx

  9. says:

    March 4, 2016 at 6:59 am

    I’ve never heard of massaged kale – so you’re much more aware than me! It does make me giggle though, the idea of massaging some leaves 🙂

    I love the look of the goats cheese – it looks like a little brain, I’m sure some people would find that off-putting, but I think it’s cute (sorry if that sounds weird).

    I love make ahead dishes for breakfasts and lunches in the week and this sounds so delicious.

  10. Erica says:

    March 4, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Ahhhh your LA trip sounds perfect!! So glad you got to enjoy the sunshine and Korean BBQ and the Valentine’s dinner – likely well deserved 🙂 It’s all so beautiful Cynthia! The colors of this salad and the flavors – I just showed my medicine team your photos and we are all drooling right now.

  11. says:

    March 7, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    Oh, my, gosh. Noooo come back!!! gahhh can’t believe you were in Torrrance! I live there! Well, practically it’s RIGHT NEXT to torrance but that’s my hangout city. But very delighted to know you loved our stuff in LA. 🙂 I too have soooo many places to recommend so feel free to come back (sooner than later plz) and I can show ya or direct ya where to go. 😉

  12. Krizia says:

    March 8, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I missed you in LA? :'( I’m so glad you had a wonderful time though (I’m from Torrance so I hope “Sunnydale” did not disappoint; though I wouldn’t be surprised if it did haha. Move here! 😉

  13. says:

    April 4, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    This is EXACTLY the kind of salad that Robert and I love to make for dinner, and then as lunch leftovers. It’s true what you said about kale salads – they’re perfect for mixing up at the beginning of the week because it will actually last you quite a few days without getting weird. Massaging is key, too! Glad to hear you’re on board. Hopefully you can get to LA for a longer period of time soon. Robert and I are also dying to get out there together.

  14. Ginger Steinecke says:

    January 12, 2017 at 6:52 am

    I just discovered your blog and recipes and must say they all look delicious. Your pictures are beautiful. I’ve never heard of massaging kale and can’t wait to try it and this salad.

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