California Harvest Salad

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(Note: this post was originally published on October 1, 2020. The date above reflects migration to the new platform.)

A Harvest Celebration

Harvest food goes California-style with this big, colorful, flavorful salad. This one is perfect for everything from fall harvest celebrations through winter holidays and has such a unique combination of ingredients. Most importantly, this salad is a celebration of some very special (local!!) figs.

In order to keep the figs front and center, the rest of this salad is quite simple. It has a delightfully zippy lemon-dijon vinaigrette, and just a few other ingredients all focused on colorful Californian produce. This salad really speaks to the fact that a small number of ingredients can yield a very special result if they all complement each other in just the right way.

Although this salad is simple, it's also super festive. All of these ingredients are just so special and have such a holiday vibe. For that reason, this salad would be a wonderful addition to everything from a fall harvest dinner to Thanksgiving to Christmas. Even the colors are festive!

California Harvest Salad on a serving platter, with figs and pomegranate on the sides

My Inspiration: Journey to a Fig Orchard

This whole salad started with a very magical visit to a fig orchard. And this isn't just any fig orchard... it's in Vermont of all places, and in the town just south of where we live! This primal, Eden-like orchard is the brainchild of my (very ambitious) friends at Paradiso Farm, who were intrepid enough to try growing figs in a greenhouse in Vermont. The result is totally amazing.

One September Sunday, Dave and I drove down to the greenhouse orchard and spent the afternoon learning about figs, tasting different kinds, and eating ripe figs right off the trees. As someone of Italian descent who has figs in her blood, this was phenomenally cool.

To celebrate the amazingly beautiful, very unique Vermont figs we harvested, I wanted to make a dish where the figs were the star of the show. I knew a kale salad was the way to go! It's the perfect way to showcase their earthy sweetness, and also sets up a really striking color contrast.

Fresh fig in a tree

Preparation & Serving Tips

This salad comes together in a snap since everything is raw and requires minimal prep (aside from the pomegranate... sigh... definitely do that the day before). One you've liberated the pomegranate arils from their prison, you can make this salad in about 15 minutes, which is perfect for a holiday meal with lots of other prep needs in the mix.

One very important note. You absolutely must massage your kale! A vigorous massage transforms it from cow food to luscious, delicate, flavor-filled salad heaven. Massaging the kale in the presences of an acidic dressing breaks down the fibrous leaves and helps the kale absorb all the tasty dressing. Please don't skip this step- improperly treated kale is what gives this wonderful ingredient its questionable reputation.

Want to make this salad a meal? Plate it on a bed of farro and top it with some crunchy roasted chick peas! That would be such a lovely, light meal for a warm September evening.

California Harvest Salad on a serving platter, with figs and pomegranate on the sides

Let's Talk Ingredients

Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.

  • Lemon Juice
  • Whole grain mustard. Learn how to make your own here!
  • Maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lacinato kale. A.k.a. dinosaur kale! I love its tender, hearty texture and dark color. You could also use green kale, but the color contrast won't be quite as pronounced. See notes above about the importance of massaging the kale.
  • Pomegranate arils. There are some good tutorials online for how to open and clean a pomegranate; check them out if you're unfamiliar. Look for one that feels dense and has a vibrant, smooth red peel.
  • Pistachios. I much prefer roasted and salted for maximum flavor.
  • Fresh figs. The star of the show!! Make sure they're ripe! They should be tender and succulent.
  • Avocado
  • Fresh basil leaves

Bowl of fresh figs

Closing Thoughts

If you haven't had fresh figs yet, get your hands on some!! They're a truly magical ingredient and something that I look forward to all year long. Being able to have figs grown just a few miles from our house wasn't something I ever expected and has been such a delightful surprise.

Isn't this just the most festive, decadent salad you've ever seen?? I hope it will be a wonderful addition to all your gatherings and holidays this fall! I hope this salad proves to you that even raw fruits and veggies can be decadent, crave-worthy, and very special.

California Harvest Salad on a serving platter, with serving utensils

Share It!

It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.

Suggested Pairings

Figgy Thyme Gin Fizz

Cauliflower and Farro Salad with Caramelized Lemon Turmeric Sauce

Kabocha Squash Dippers

Summer Picnic Chick Pea Salad

Fig, Bourbon, and Cinnamon Nicecream Cake

Disclosure: I received free product from Paradiso Farm. However, all opinions and thoughts are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep The Rogue Brussel Sprout running.

California Harvest Salad

Can a salad be decadent? With this one, the answer is certainly yes! This very special salad features creamy avocado, succulent fresh figs, jewel-like pomegranate, and crunchy pistachios over a bed of massaged kale.

Author:
Lee

Ingredients

For the Dressing

  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Generous salt and pepper

For the Salad

  • Large bunch of lacinato kale
  • Big handful of pomegranate arils
  • Small handful of roasted/salted pistachios
  • 8-10 fresh figs
  • Avocado
  • Small handful of fresh basil leaves

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine your dressing ingredients.
  2. Strip the ribs out of the kale leaves, then cut the kale into thin ribbons perpendicular to where the stems used to be. Give the ribbons a good wash in warm water, which helps start the tenderizing process, then drain well.
  3. Put the kale into the mixing bowl with the dressing. Give it all a very vigorous massage with your hands until the leaves are wilted and tender; it may take several minutes.
  4. Let it all sit for a few minutes while you prepare your other ingredients to continue tenderizing in the lemon juice and salt.
  5. When you're ready to serve, lay the kale on a serving platter. Top it with pomegranate arils, pistachios, figs, avocado slices, and basil leaves.

Leave a Comment

Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you make this recipe? Did you make substitutions? How did you serve it? Any helpful tips? Please share your thoughts, since these insights are really useful to both me and to other readers.

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VTGirl
September 20, 2021
Thanx for the kale massage tips!! Game-changer!
Anonymous
September 29, 2021
OMG those figgies!!!