Need a fun salad to brighten up your day? Try this refreshing kale salad with watermelon radish, tomatoes, and candied walnuts!
I recently visited the winter farmer’s market in Ithaca for a fun little outing. It was incredible to see winter produce in all of its glory – squashes, rutabaga, kohlrabi, endives, and so much more! I didn’t end up getting any of the ~adventurous~ vegetables, but I did bring home apple butter, brambleberry jam, and the most important components of this beautiful salad.
When I saw fresh Tuscan kale at the different stands, I just knew I had to make something to highlight this robust winter green. Fortunately, I happen to love kale salads because of how nutritious and hearty they are. And THEN I came across the iconic watermelon radish, which, with its color alone, is enough to inspire.
To me, cooking is all about finding the beauty within ingredients. As such, this kale and radish salad was created to showcase the elegance of winter produce with the help of a few supporting characters.
The crispness of the hearty kale, snap of the peppery radish, tang of the juicy cherry tomatoes, and salty sweetness of the candied walnuts are all tied together by a simple dijon vinaigrette. I’m so excited about this salad and I hope you enjoy it too, regardless of the season!
What is Tuscan Kale?
Kale overall is a highly nutritious and hearty leafy green that is common in soups, salads, and everything in between. The flavor of kale can range from sweet to slightly bitter, but it is generally compatible with all kinds of dishes. It has recently become more popular because of its status as a superfood – full of protein, calcium, and lots and lots of vitamin C. So we love it!
Tuscan kale is also known as Lacinato or Dinosaur kale. It is one of the many varieties of kale, other varieties include curly kale, salad savoy, and Chinese kale. Curly kale is the most common but Tuscan kale comes in as a close second.
How to Serve Kale
Personally, I love kale sautéed simply in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Kale is also great to top off soups because it doesn’t wilt as easily as other leafy greens.
Best of all, kale works great for salads. Firstly, remove the stem completely by slicing them out with a knife or ripping it out by hand (fun!). Next, the leaves are relatively tough so it’s important to slice it thinly into ribbons and massage. Love on your greens by sprinkling on salt (and optionally olive oil and lemon juice for silkier texture) and scrunching by the handful. You want to do this until the leaves just start to wilt so that they retain their crisp texture. Read more about this technique here.
This is particularly applicable when you purchase kale in bunches. If your kale is pre-sliced and packaged, this step is optional.
Let’s Talk About Watermelon Radishes
If I could be in love with a vegetable, it would be with watermelon radishes. Don’t get me wrong, the flavor of radishes/daikon is mildly delicious at best. But the striking color and energy of watermelon radishes has me hooked.
Watermelon radishes are a root vegetable and a variety of daikon radishes. They have a mild peppery taste and are usually served fresh or pickled. They are no less than a showstopper which is why they are popular in seasonal salads. I have also topped dishes like chili and grain bowls with watermelon radish slices and it makes me so happy!! Basically just substitute in wherever you could or would use normal radishes or daikon radishes.
Making Kale and Watermelon Radish Salad
Now onto the salad! This is a very straightforward salad designed to bring out the best qualities of fresh ingredients.
These candied walnuts add a robust crunch that is both savory and sweet. Heat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Put walnuts in a small bowl and pour very hot water over walnuts. Let sit for 1 minute, then drain. Add sugar and sea salt, mix to coat nuts evenly, then spread on the parchment. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes until crisp and caramelized. Cool, then break walnuts apart.
Easy Dijon Vinaigrette
I love this vinaigrette because it’s so versatile and simple. You can use any kind of vinegar you have on hand – I have tried it with balsamic, apple cider, and red wine vinegar.
Combine vinaigrette ingredients into a bowl or glass jar. Whisk until fully combined and adjust to taste. You can store this in the fridge for up to a week – perfect for meal prepping salads!
Pull kale leaves off of the stem and discard the stems. Chop the kale into small bite-sized pieces. In a large salad bowl, combine chopped kale with a pinch of salt. Massage the leaves by scrunching up handfuls at a time until the leaves are fragrant, darker in color, and just beginning to wilt. Avoid over-massaging.
Add the candied walnuts, halved tomatoes, and sliced radish to the bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss thoroughly. Crumble optional feta or goat cheese over salad before serving.
Salad are best eaten fresh, so aim to serve right after tossing it together. Hope you enjoy!
Kale and Radish Salad with Candied Walnuts
- 2 oz walnuts around ½ cup
- 2 tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 8 oz kale curly or tuscan
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved around ¾ cup
- 1 medium watermelon radish, thinly sliced or 2-3 regular radishes
- goat or feta cheese optional
Easy Dijon Vinaigrette
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½ tbsp vinegar of choice apple cider, red wine, balsamic
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 cloves garlic, minced or ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp dried Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp salt
- pinch freshly ground black pepper
- honey or maple syrup optional
- Heat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Put walnuts in a small bowl and pour very hot water over walnuts. Let sit for 1 minute, then drain. Add sugar and sea salt, mix to coat nuts evenly, then spread on the parchment. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes until crisp and caramelized. Cool, then break walnuts apart.
- Combine vinaigrette ingredients into a bowl or glass jar. Whisk until fully combined and adjust to taste.
- Pull kale leaves off of the stem and discard the stems. Chop the kale into small bite-sized pieces. In a large salad bowl, combine chopped kale with a pinch of salt. Massage the leaves by scrunching up handfuls at a time until the leaves are fragrant and darker in color.
- Add the candied walnuts, halved tomatoes, and sliced radish to the bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss thoroughly. Crumble optional cheese over salad before serving.