Recipe: Kale Salad with Quick-Pickled Watermelon Radish

No matter how many times I have cooked with the watermelon radish, slicing into one is always a magical experience. Although the pale greenish-white root is rather unassuming at first glance, inside lies the most brilliant fuchsia core. Heating it dulls the color, so my favorite way to serve this mild radish is raw or lightly pickled. In a salad, it really adds a vivid pop.
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This particular salad features thinly sliced watermelon radishes (a mandoline comes in handy here), quickly pickled in a brine of vinegar, sugar, and salt. They're ready to eat in about 30 minutes, although if you have time to leave them longer (up to a day), the flavor will mellow and taste even better.

These zippy, colorful pickles offer a nice counterpoint to earthy green kale, which is massaged with an olive and pumpkin seed oil dressing. Using your hands to work the dressing into the raw leaves softens them, making them less bitter and more digestible. Finally, a sprinkle of roasted pepitas adds nuttiness and texture.

Kale Salad with Quick-Pickled Watermelon Radish
Serves 4

1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
Kosher salt
1 (6-ounce) watermelon radish (can substitute regular radishes)
1 (8-ounce) bunch kale
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seed oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Do ahead: In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt. Thinly slice the radish using a mandoline or chef's knife, add to the bowl, and stir to combine, making sure the slices are well coated. Let stand at least 30 minutes or refrigerate up to a day before serving.

Wash the kale and pat off excess water. If the center stems are tender enough to eat, simply trim the bottom inch or two. If the center stems are thick or tough, cut or tear them out (see Basic Technique: How to Prepare Chard Or Any Other Leafy Green) and discard or save for another dish. Slice the leaves crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide ribbons.

In a large bowl, combine olive oil, pumpkin seed oil, lemon juice, thyme, a generous grind of black pepper, and a little salt. Add the kale and use your hands to massage the dressing into the leaves until they soften and wilt.

Drain the radishes. Toss with the kale - OR - arrange the slices on individual plates and place the kale on top. Garnish with pumpkin seeds and serve.

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Related: Recipe: Kale Salad with Blood Orange and Meyer Lemon

(Images: Emily Ho)

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