Kale salad with barley, cranberries, and goat cheese

I’m afraid I may have just corralled all the kale fanatics and scared away all the kale opponents. But please stay. I fancy myself somewhere in the middle—I sort of hate food trends that take over the scene, but I also really do like kale. So I promise this post will be a quiet, under-the-radar cheer for kale. I won’t declare that it’s changed my life or pretend that if you eat this, you'll get all the vitamins and minerals you need in one day in a single salad and that it helps fight off seasonal depression and increases your metabolism.  This salad purely tastes good and travels well, which is why I’m featuring it. It doesn’t hurt that it’s got some supposed nutritional value too—but that’s honestly not the point. 

This is a go-to lunch for me. It’s a green salad that’s also make-ahead without getting weird over time. I love the fact that I can make a salad in the morning before work, and it’s even better at lunchtime after marinating and festering for a few hours (but still crunchy!). It has everything I need in a salad to feel satisfied. It’s also wicked pretty! Doesn’t hurt your foodie Instagram game.

Kale salad

Yields 1 giant lunch portion
Dinosaur or Tuscan kale, stems removed and torn into bite sized pieces
Some olive oil for “massaging” the kale
cup cooked barley (just follow package instructions)
¼ cup goat cheese
cup dried cranberries
2-3 T dressing, just depends on your taste

All-Purpose Vinaigrette

Yields about ½ cup 
Juice of half a lemon
1 T champagne vinegar
1 tsp honey
¼ cup olive oil
1 T minced shallot
½ tsp salt
Freshly cracked black pepper 

Make the dressing first by combining all of the ingredients and whisking to emulsify (I like to make dressing in a mason jar and shake it to emulsify—then it can be stored and refrigerated in the jar, as well). Place in fridge until ready to use.

Start by massaging the kale with a little bit of olive oil (just enough to coat it and rub into it the leaves for a few minutes). I’m not exactly sure how this process works, but it really helps to soften the kale and make it more palatable. I just rub the pieces of kale between my fingers and against each other for a few minutes. You should be able to feel the pieces getting slightly softer. This step can be done a day in advance, but doesn't have to be. Then, on the day you're going to be eating the salad, toss the kale with the barley, and add dressing to the mixture and toss to combine thoroughly. Then top it off with some goat cheese crumbles and cranberries and toss again. 

This dressed salad will last in the fridge for a day, probably even longer, but I usually eat it the same day I make it.

PS: Try different variations of this salad! Add almonds or cashews, add roasted sweet potatoes, sub feta for goat cheese or cherries for cranberries or farro for barley… there are so many great combinations out there.