Kale Salad with Bacon, Dates + Balsamic Reduction

Over the last few months, and more specifically the last few weeks, I have been feeling extremely uninspired in the kitchen lately. This happens to me a lot during this time frame between the seasons. Where I simply grow tired of what there is to offer, and dream of all new fresh produce to cook with. And with this new change of weather in the Pacific Northwest, I am desperately begging for Spring and all of it's gorgeous food it brings. 

But until then, I will do my best enjoying the winter fruits and vegetables. Eating citrus and just about every meal. And while I have grown very uninspired lately, I have discovered this new (practically obsessive like behavior) love for dates. Using them in our smoothies, making my own coffee creamer with coconut milk and chopped dates with vanilla too, eating them hot from the skillet with olive oil and flaky salt and adding them into my salads. 

The combination of crispy, salty bacon chunks with melt in your mouth date slices, red onions that have been soaked in balsamic reduction, and fresh kale, is just possibly my favorite meal as of lately. And while this is a great salad as is, adding a 1/2 cup cooked barley or farro into it makes for a very filling, healthy and completely  delicious meal. The bacon can easily be left out if you do not eat meat. Just simply add more dates, or some nuts would be great too. 

And one more thing for my Portland friends. I am teaching a food styling and photography workshop at the beautiful Elder Hall, click here for more details. 

serves 4

1 head kale, preferably lacinato, leaves removed and chopped
4 pieces bacon
4 dates, pitted and sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 425. Place bacon on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and cook for 15-25 minutes until crisp. Blot with a paper towel and let cool. Once cool, break into bite size chunks. 

Place balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer and reduce for 10 minutes. 

Add thinly sliced red onions to the balsamic reduction and set aside. 

Place chopped kale leaves into a serving bowl, add chopped bacon, sliced dates. Remove red onion slices from the balsamic reduction and toss into salad. Start with adding 2 tablespoons balsamic reduction to the salad. Gently toss together. From here you can eat as is, or add more balsamic reduction, depending on your taste. 

This salad also works really well with cooked farro or barley grains. It goes from making this a side salad to a whole meal on its own. As well, feta and goat cheese make a great addition. 

Ashley Martikale, salad, bacon, dates, balsamic