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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French-style New Potato Salad

IMG_5188No matter what the variety or color, when a potato is harvested in its tuber infancy, it becomes a new potato. New potatoes are low in starch, high in sugars, and range in size from golf ball to marble.   They have an incomparably smooth but firm texture and a skin so thin it may be missing in spots. Found only in backyard gardens and farmers markets, new potatoes represent one of summer’s fleeting joys.

New Potatoes--French-Style New Potato Salad

My favorite way to showcase the new potato’s subtle flavor and creamy texture is to serve it in a salad…but not one of those sloppy American mayonnaise-y sorts of salads that you find in the deli aisle at the Piggly Wiggly. That would mask rather than enhance the potato’s flavor. Besides, too many people have an absolute aversion to mayonnaise stemming from a childhood experience like finding out too late that grandma used mayonnaise not Cool Whip in a Jell-O salad.  I have my own aversions. While I love mayonnaise any other time, added to potatoes it represents for me a major public health menace. As a student, I read one too many textbooks that used church potluck potato salad as the source of a food poisoning outbreak to illustrate the terms and tools of epidemiology. No thank you.

French potatoes salad, thankfully, eliminates all of those bad associations while taking advantage of foods from the early part of summer-—herbs, fresh spring onions, and new potatoes.  This vinaigrette is on the tangy side which enhances the flavor and texture of mild, creamy new potatoes. Small waxy potato varieties make a suitable substitute.

Selection & Storage:  Potatoes should be firm and should have no green skin or sprouts on them.  Green on a potato indicates sun exposure and the presence of a poison. DON’T EAT THE GREEN SPOTS—CUT THEM OUT.  Store new potatoes in a cool, dark place away from the onions. I find a cardboard box, a burlap sack, or a paper bag on the pantry floor works well—dry, breathable material wicks moisture away. Spread them out as much as possible and remove any bad one immediately. Do not store them in the refrigerator as they become oddly sweet and may even turn black.IMG_5203

Preparations: New potatoes are easy to cook whole because of their small size.  You do not need to remove the skin of the new potato because it is so thin.  After boiling they will easily peel off when rubbed. They are delicious when boiled (10 – 20 minutes simmer time), creamed, or pan-roasted (drizzle in oil and roasted at 375 F for 25 – 35 min).  They keep their shape well when cooked and cut, making them ideal for salads.

Cooking with Kids:  Herbs are a major part of my postage stamp garden.  Most are low maintenance perennials. The kids know the name and flavor of every herb in our garden. They sample them regularly and are in charge of harvesting them.  I keep a small pair of scissors in the kitchen just for this purpose.  Even if space is limited or you have black instead of green thumbs, try planting a container of herbs or placing a few in your landscaping.  Herbs grow like weeds generally speaking.  Moreover, they cost a fortune at the store and spoil quickly, so you’ll save money on groceries.  In this recipe, I have the kids measure and shake the vinaigrette in a mason jar while I boil the potatoes.


French-style New Potato Salad
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: French
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 servings
  • 2 lbs. new or waxy potatoes
  • ¼ cup white or red wine vinegar
  • 2 t Dijon mustard
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small spring onion or shallot, mince
  • ¼ cup mix chopped herbs—thyme, tarragon, chives or parsley
  • ½ t salt
  • ¼ t pepper
  • 1 or 2 pinches of sugar
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. Place washed but unpeeled new potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover them. Salt water if desired. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Simmer until tender—10 to 20 minutes depending on the size, drain and quarter if desired.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, onion, herbs, salt, sugar and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until completely combined. Toss with the warm potatoes. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.