entertainingfoodFood & Drinkin the kitchen withkristina gillrecipes

in the kitchen with: gena knox’s kale and apple salad

by Kristina Gill

Usually when people mention the word “salad,” it doesn’t stir up great emotions in me. This week’s recipe from Georgia-based food entrepreneur and cookbook author Gena Knox was all it took to convert my appetite. Her recipe for kale and apple salad with molasses vinaigrette and sugared pecans is the right mix of savory and sweet, with the Parmesan cheese balancing out the sweetness of the Golden Delicious apple. Plus the colors are so deep and beautiful that the salad really is irresistible. It also comes together quickly and becomes more flavorful as it sits, making it perfect for entertaining. If ever a salad could make me want more, this is the one! — Kristina

About Gena: A native of a small town in South Georgia, Gena Knox’s culinary path, which began in her mother’s kitchen, has led Gena to author two cookbooks. Her most recent cookbook from November 2010, Southern My Way: Simple Recipes, Fresh Flavors, is a compilation of recipes for traditional Southern dishes that have been updated with a lighter, healthier approach and focus on the use of local ingredients. In addition to being a cookbook author, Gena is in charge of recipe, creative and product development for her company, Fire & Flavor, which she founded with her husband Davis Knox in 2003. Fire & Flavor started as a small company that sold grilling planks, but has since expanded its offerings to an array of cooking products including grilling papers and skewers, gourmet seasoning salt blends and rubs and brining mixes. Also active in her community, Gena was invited to be in the Leadership Georgia Program Class of 2009, which builds leadership training among young business, civic and community leaders. You can follow her culinary adventures at her blog.

CLICK HERE for the full recipe after the jump!

Kale and Apple Salad with Molasses Vinaigrette and Sugared Pecans

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Marinate Time: 1 hour
Yields: 4 servings

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of kale, washed (about 7 cups loosely packed)
  • 1 Golden Delicious apple, cut into matchstick slices
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced with carrot peeler

Dressing Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground mustard
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable stock

Pecan Ingredients

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves


1. Using a sharp knife, cut away think center stems of kale leaves and discard stems. Stack several leaves, tightly roll them into a cigar shape and slice them into thin ribbons. Repeat until all leaves are thinly sliced.

2. In a small bowl, combine molasses, vinegar, mustard, shallots, oil and stock, and season with salt and pepper. Toss dressing with kale, apple and cheese, and let sit at room temperature for one hour.

3. Heat butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in cinnamon, allspice, pepper, sugar and pecans. Toast pecans for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring until the sugar has melted and the pecans are lightly toasted. Spread on wax paper to cool. Toss pecans with salad and serve.

Food photography by Kristina Gill; cutting board by Andrea Brugi; pecan dish by Christiane Perrochon; gray woven coaster from Fog Linen; forks from ebay; bread plates in plum and ash, medium pebble bowl in milk by mud australia

Why Gena Chose This Recipe
Besides the fact that our garden is overflowing with kale and collards, it is one of my favorite vegetables and so good for you.  I love the fall and winter flavors of sweet maple syrup, apples and of course, Georgia pecans, which are higher in antioxidants than any other nut. This salad is the perfect combination of winter’s bounty and is super healthy, which helps us start the new year off on the right foot.

Portrait by Erica Georges Dines

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  • Wow, how good does that sound! I love Gena and her cookbook. It is visually stunning and just FULL of delicious recipes like this one. I grew up and live in the same region of Georgia as her so I can visit and shop at all the places she mentions in the book – fun!

  • This looks delicious. I’ve started eating gluten free and this is a perfect recipe.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you for the recipe! I am addicted to Kale salads. I eat one a week so I’m grateful for another variation. It looks delicious!

  • @Teckie – Once it’s marinated it isn’t ‘bitter’ like people described it to me. It’s quite nice. My husband didn’t know it was a cold salad and he warmed it in the frying pan…presumably just as good! LOL

  • I’ve recently been going back through all your “In The Kitchen With” posts and rediscovering all these amazing food blogs. And this recipe looks delicious!

  • Thank you for posting another awesome kale salad recipe!

    I loved Amy Azzarito’s recipe – it really changed my mind about kale.

    Gena or other readers – do you have any hints or ideas for making a vegan version of this? Thank you for any feedback!

  • Wow, we just made this for dinner and it is amazing – never would have thought raw kale could be so delicious!

  • yum! i am definitely going to try this. i love love love kale, as does the rest of my family. and the kids are HUGE fans of apples, so this will be a winner at our house!

  • sounds absolutely delicious, I have never tried a raw kale salad, only have had it cooked. cant wait tot try this healthy version. One question how come you cant use Blackstrap molasses? Too strong?

  • I’m so happy you posted this! I had been wondering what I wanted to make for dinner, and it just so happened that I had all the ingredients for this salad on hand. It’s delicious!

  • Hi Heather – to make the recipe vegan you can substitute the butter for a little vegetable or grape seed oil and also omit the cheese in the recipe. I am not familiar with the vegan cheeses out there, but there may be one that has a slightly salty flavor and would make a nice substitution. I am so glad you are all enjoying the recipe!

  • Made this recipe today – couldn’t stop thinking about it since last Friday! It was a winner. My husband said, “Where has this been all our lives?!” 13-year-old kiddo was a big fan, too! Thanks!

  • FYI – I’ve served this 6 times this spring and it has been a serious hit. Everyone begs me for the recipe each time. I end up emailing this link to them in mass. Bravo!

  • I simply love Kale salad and I am always looking for different recipes. I have an amazing one that I keep going back to but will also throw this in my recipe box as it’s always nice to have some variation. I just found your blog on pinterest and I can’t wait to explore it.

  • this is easily my favorite kale recipe. I must have made this over a dozen times now and everyone loves it (even kale haters). I’m even going to bring it to thanksgiving this year. Just wanted to sweep in and say how thankful I am for this recipe! xoxoxo

  • Looks sooo good! Can’t wait to try. One question though, can you substitute honey for molasses in the dressing?? Not a big user of molasses and don’t want to waste. Thanks!

  • I second Casey’s comment. I’ve made this many times, including just over Christmas. It is always a home run hit and is easy because you can make it the day before. SO glad to see it again.