I went back to work in a no kidding office in the city. Briefcase and all. And can I tell you how much I love my job? Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I feel so fortunate to work with so many creative people. Seriously, the place runneth over with talent. But the best part is that I get to do what I love to do and I know that not everyone gets that opportunity. I’m a lucky girl.
I also hurt my back and had my wisdom teeth pulled out. None of that inspired me to pull out a frying pan. Matter of fact, for three months we ate a lot of foods we normally don’t. Takeout, mac-n-cheese, chicken nuggets. I was a hurtin’ puppy. Cooking was not a priority.
And while I’m listing excuses, I’ll also mention that I’m a mother of four. The kids are a major time suck, but in a good way. Recently we went through a health scare with our littlest which made me reflect on how much I love them and how lost I would be without them. They are the nucleus of my existence and if I lost any of them, my being would shatter into a gazillion fragments.
And that’s why I haven’t been posting.
Enough of that. Let’s talk food. I recently went down to Miami for the food blogging conference BlogHer Food. Miami is well known for good eats, so it seemed only right to try out some local restaurants. I did a little research and found that Yardbird Southern Table looked quite promising. Southern food served in an upscale setting. Chicken and waffles. Shrimp and Grits. Crispy fried chicken. If it was southern, they had it. And of course I wanted to eat it all.
Alas, one cannot do that in one visit, so I settled on a kale salad and the chicken and waffles. But truth be told, there was no settling whatsoever. I know that a kale salad does not sound very exciting. But let me tell you, it was one of the very best salads I had in my entire life. Chopped kale, apples, cheddar cheese, cornbread croutons and moonshine raisins. The menu listed the dressing as “cider vinegar” but clearly they were holding out.
I could taste citrus, a light tang of vinegar and several other mystery flavors that made for the most luscious salad that ever entered my mouth. Of course I immediately started pushing the salad around on my plate in order to decipher what the heck they did to make such a marvelous creation. And while I did a damn good job replicating the dressing, this version is a little different because let’s face it, moonshine raisins aren’t easy to come by in Boston.
My version starts the same as the Yardbird’s. A big ole head of chopped kale. I have to be honest with you. I’m not at all a fan of kale. Matter of fact, I avoid it. It’s just not my favorite leafy green. Spinach? Sure. Collard greens? Absolutely. Kale, meh.
Even still, it really works with this recipe. Kale has just the right texture for a chopped salad. It doesn’t mush down and get soggy. I hate soggy salads.
The Yardbird menu did not mention bacon in the salad, but I definitely detected that undeniable smoky bacon flavor in the mix. Gotta love a salad that has cheese and bacon in it. That’s my kind of salad.
And if you don’t love pecans, use any nut you like. Walnuts, cashews and almonds are all great choices. Or if you are allergic to nuts, just skip it. The onions give the salad a nice crunch on their own.
But what makes this salad truly special is the dressing. The Yardbird dressing seemed to have a citrusy flavor with just a bit of sweet to it. My version is similar in flavor but I’ve added cilantro and a bit of jalapeño for a little kick. I know that not everyone likes cilantro. If you aren’t gah gah for cilantro like I am, you can substitute with just about any herb you like. Fresh tarragon or marjoram would be fine choices.
While this salad isn’t exactly the Yardbird version, it sure is close. You can serve it with just about anything or even serve it as an entree. It’s hearty enough with the bacon, cheese and nuts that it absolutely could be an entire meal on its own.
If you ever make your way down to Miami, do be sure to stop by Yardbird Southern Table. You won’t regret it. I will be dreaming about their kale salad and chicken and waffles for the rest of my days. Which is also the amount of time I will need to burn those calories off. Whoa mama.
- 6 cups kale, chopped
- 4 cups corn kernels, roasted (I actually grilled mine)
- 1 8oz brick of cheddar cheese, diced (freeze the block first)
- ¾ cup Vidalia onion, diced
- 1 cup, red bell pepper, diced
- ½ cup pecans, chopped
- ½ cup thick cut bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup fresh cilantro
- 3 limes, juiced
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 4 Tbsp white vinegar
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded (or less if you don't like heat)
- Salt and pepper to taste (I used ½ tsp salt and about 6 cranks of pepper)
- Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss well.
- Place dressing ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Use as much of the dressing as you like and store the rest in the fridge for up to one week.