Kale & Pear Winter Slaw

Kale & Pear Winter Slaw

“Three kinds of kale, Seckel pears, two kinds of chili peppers and honey.”   That was the text message I received from the farm manager in my response to my question, “What crops to you have in plentiful supply?” The farm manager works for Walnut Way Conservation Corp, a community organization in Milwaukee that uses vacant city lots to grow produce as part of their mission to revitalize the neighborhood.  I posed the question because they had invited me to do a cooking-based nutrition workshop to help promote their produce at their annual Harvest Celebration.

Kale & Pear Winter Slaw--3 kale varieties

(left to right) Curly Kale, Red Winter Kale, Lacinato or Tuscan or Black Kale

It seems like a game show challenge for harried home cooks.  “What recipe can you develop using these 4 ingredients?”  Because I wind up a contestant on this game show more nights than I would like to admit,  I have gained some skill in meal-time problem-solving. It didn’t take me long to come up with this kale salad which incorporates 3 out of the 4 ingredients.   I could have incorporated all 4 adding a minced red chili pepper for a bit of heat, but I chose a more conservative path focusing on the sweet and tangy flavors.Kale--cold water bath

Among greens, kale falls into the “hardy” category. This means it generally should be cooked in water or it will remain too tough and too bitter to eat.  However in this recipe, the acid from the apple cider vinegar does the “cooking”. The result is a hardy slaw, one that stands up longer than its cabbage cousin.  Crisp pears, tart cranberries, crunchy pecans, assertive onions, smoky bacon, and sweet honey all combine nicely adding layers of complimentary flavors and textures to the pleasantly chewy kale slaw.

Kale & Pear Winter Slaw--girls prep
Kale--separating leaf from stalk


Kale & Pear Winter Slaw
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 6-8 servings
Make this recipe after the first frost when kale becomes sweeter and even more tender.
  • 12 oz. kale—a tender variety like Red Winter or Lacinato works best
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced red onions
  • 2 medium-sized firm pears, peeled and diced—about 1 ½ cups
  • 4 rashers bacon, fried crisp
  • ¼ cup chopped dried cranberries
  • ⅓ cup chopped, toasted pecans
  • ⅓ cup grape seed or olive oil
  • 3 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • ½ t crushed black pepper
  1. Prepare kale by tearing the stalks from the leaves. Swish kale leaves in a deep, cold water bath until all dirt falls to the bottom. Next stack clean leaves and roll tightly together. Slice the roll lengthwise and then crosswise into very thin, short strips.
  2. Make dressing by combining salt, pepper, vinegar, and honey. Then slowly drizzle in oil whisking constantly or blending on high with an electric blender.
  3. Toss half the dressing with the chopped kale and let it set at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, chop cranberries and slice onions; set aside.
  5. Peel pears and dice into ¼ inch cubes. Keep diced pears in a bowl with ½ cup water and 1 T vinegar to prevent browning.
  6. Toast pecans—place pecans in a dry heavy skillet over medium heat stirring constantly for 1—2 minutes until golden. Remove from pan and chop.
  7. In the same skillet, fry bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, drain on a paper towel, and finely chop.
  8. Toss all ingredients together, adjust salt and pepper seasoning, and serve at room temperature or chill and serve later. This salad gets better with time.
Substitute smoked tempeh or ½ teaspoon liquid smoke for a bacon-free slaw.


Stack cleaned and prepped leaves; roll tightly together; slice into thin ribbons

Stack cleaned and prepped leaves; roll tightly together; slice into thin ribbons

Kale ribbons--wilting in the dressingCooking with Kids:  Little kids were made for cleaning greens. Ripping the leaf from the stalk without a care  followed by swishing the leaves in a deep cold water bath—this comes as close to pure cooking fun as you can get for a little kid. No admonishments to be careful or to not spill; no overseeing their technique.  I have been having my kids clean greens since they could walk.

They also enjoy making the dressing.  When they were very small (3 and under), I had them shake it like crazy in a jar.  They have graduated to using the noisy immersion blender.  For a kid, nothing compares to the joy derived from using a noisy tool.

Getting kids to eat dark leafy greens can be a challenge, but try.  Greens are the most important plant food you can eat for long-term health. Because my children like salad, I told them that this is a kale salad (which it is) and avoided the use of the word slaw–something new.  I won’t lie, this was their first time trying it and they weren’t wild about it.  That said they did take a bite but said no thanks to more. The man liked it and so did I, which is enough for me to make it again and again and again. They will try it each time and I guarantee that they will come around to accepting it perhaps even requesting it. Courage, Dear Parents! Be relentless!IMG_6005

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