Bring on the green! This kale and brussels sprout salad with toasted hazelnut vinaigrette is tangy, crunchy, bright, fresh, and oh so delicious. It comes together in just 25 minutes, and you’ll munch on this healthy, hearty, vegetarian salad for days.
The summer between my junior and senior years of high school my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother took me on a two-week trip to Ireland. Yes, you read that right. They were both widowed, and became the best of friends. Grandpa was Irish, and it was his lifelong dream to visit the motherland. And Grandma was, and still is, an adventurer. They stumbled upon a luxury senior travel deal that made it insanely cheap to bring along a minor, so off we went.
We slept in castles, travelled windy roads, kissed the Blarney Stone, walked the Cliffs of Moher, sheared sheep, and ate some of the best damn food I’ve ever tasted. That trip was my first real foray into gourmet, and while I don’t remember every meal precisely, I vividly recall a shift in my approach to food. Within days I went from skeptic teenager to voracious culinary voyager.
While we devoured piles of bangers and mash, plates of Irish breakfast, and more soda bread than one should reasonably consume, we also indulged in farm fresh greens, sharp cheeses, and some damn good salmon.
So I’m tipping my hat to St. Paddy’s Day the OSK way with this kale and brussels sprout salad with toasted hazelnut vinaigrette. It’s bright and fresh, sharp and salty, and as green as you can get.
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Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad Recipe Notes
Kale is good. Brussels sprouts are great. And when you combine them with creamy, sharp blue cheese and an irresistible toasted hazelnut vinaigrette? Foodie freakin’ heaven, promptly delivered in 30 minutes or less. Let’s get to it.
Get your hands on some kale. I like lacinato kale for this salad (also called Dino/Dinosaur kale or Tuscan kale). It’s the “flatter” kale you’ll find in your produce section or farmer’s market. Lacinato kale is a bit sweeter and less earthy than curly kale, and definitely less bitter. I used a bundle that was included in our last winter CSA pick-up, and if you can get your hands on farm fresh kale, you should. It’s so crisp and tender, with a vibrant blue-green hue. So pretty, so tasty.
Remove the woody stems before slicing into ribbons. To do so, lay the kale flat on your cutting board, and then run the tip of a sharp knife along each edge of the stem to release it. Stack three or four stemmed leaves on top of one another, then slice crosswise into 1/4″ ribbons. This is a great video tutorial on how to remove kale stems.
Now let’s shave up those brussels sprouts. Trim the end of each sprout, then peel away any bruised or discolored leaves. Slice each sprout in half, then place cut side down on your cutting board. Starting at the tip, slice each sprout crosswise into 1/4″ ribbons to create shreds.
Toss the kale and brussels sprouts together in a large bowl, then sprinkle with some crumbled blue cheese. If your cheese is too soft to crumble into small pieces, dice it into 1″ cubes and place it into the freezer for 5-10 minutes while you prepare the greens or the dressing. It’ll crumble super easily once it’s chilled.
Now for the magic. This toasted hazelnut vinaigrette is ri-di-cu-lous. It’s sweet, salty, tangy, crunchy and elevates this simple kale and brussels sprout salad to culinary bliss status.
Heat a small saute pan over medium high heat, then add the hazelnuts, skins and all. The heat will temper the bitter skins into sweet and toasty tastiness. Dry roast the hazelnuts for a few minutes until the skins start to crack and the hazelnuts are super fragrant. Keep that pan moving to ensure you toast all sides and don’t burn the nuts. Set ’em aside to cool off for a few minutes and then chop.
Chopping hazelnuts is actually a right pain in the ass. They’re tiny and round, so they scatter. So I don’t chop, I crush, and you can too. Place the cooled, toasted hazelnuts into a resealable gallon sized freezer bag, then press most of the air out and seal. Lay the bag on a cutting board and give it a little shake so the hazelnuts settle into a single layer. Using a rolling pin, gently whack the bag (yes, I realize that’s an oxymoron) until the hazelnuts are “chopped” into bits.
Combine the chopped hazelnuts with some minced garlic, minced shallot, champagne vinegar, and honey, then whisk in some extra virgin olive oil until its emulsified. Sweet and tangy, manna from heaven, hazelnut vinaigrette has arrived.
Drizzle that stuff over the kale and brussels sprout salad liberally, then toss to combine.
Make this a meal with the addition of seared salmon or grilled chicken. This salad can be enjoyed immediately, but its flavor gets better the longer it sits. I ate it three days in a row, and it was at peak the second day.
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Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad Base
- 1 bunch lacinato kale thinly sliced into 1/4" ribbons
- 8 oz brussels sprouts shredded into 1/4" ribbons
- 2 oz bleu cheese crumbled
- Heat an 8" skillet over medium high heat. Add the hazelnuts and toast until the skins start to crack and the nuts are golden brown and fragrant, 4-5 minutes Remove from heat and transfer to a cutting board or bowl to stop the cooking process. Allow to cool while you prepare the salad base.
- Prepare the kale. Lay a piece of kale flat on the cutting board. Run the tip of a sharp knife along each edge of the stem to release it. Repeat with the remaining leaves. Stack 3-4 slices of kale leaves on top of one another, then slice crosswise into 1/4" ribbons. Repeat until all of the kale has been thinly sliced. Place the shredded kale into a large salad bowl.
- Trim the ends of the brussels sprouts and remove any bruised or yellowing outer leaves. Slice each brussels sprout in half. Lay the sprouts cut side down, then slice widthwise to create shreds. Start with the top of the sprout, as the root end will keep the leaves intact while you slice. Add the shredded brussels sprouts to the kale.
- Crumble the blue cheese into tiny pieces and add to the salad bowl. Toss the kale, brussels sprouts, and blue cheese until uniformly mixed.
- Place the cooled hazelnuts into a gallon sized ziplock bag. Place the bag on a cutting board, then shake to distribute the nuts into an even layer. Using a rolling pin, whack the bag (not *too* hard) until the nuts are crushed into small pieces. Place the crushed hazelnuts into a bowl.
- Add the champagne vinegar, honey, salt, and a pepper to the bowl and whisk. Pour in the extra virgin olive oil in a steady stream with one hand while whisking with the other. Continue whisking vigorously until the vinaigrette is emulsified.
- Pour half the vinaigrette over the salad and toss. Taste for seasoning, and add additional salt and pepper if needed, or additional vinaigrette if the salad seems dry. The salad can be served immediately, or set aside to further marinate. Store leftover brussels sprout and kale salad in a sealed container in the fridge for up to three days. Store leftover vinaigrette in a lidded jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
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