Weeknight Cooking

A Magic Kale Salad, with Bacon and Cheese

October 20, 2014

For those nights when you get home hungry, stressed, and impatient, Hangry is here to help. Each Monday, Kendra Vaculin will share quick, exciting meals to rescue anyone who might be anxiously eyeing a box of minute rice.

Today: Inspired by childhood memories of Rome, Kendra makes a carbonara-y kale salad, which might just make for the perfect work lunch.

Shop the Story

I went to Rome with my family when I was in 7th grade, at an age altogether too young to appreciate what was happening. Lots of walking, I think, is what I would have told you if you asked me afterward what there was in Rome. Lots of old things made out of stone. I took a heap of pictures for my Myspace profile, which, when I review them now, completely amaze me. I walked those streets! I saw those ruins! How was I not totally, constantly in awe? Apparently very little of the historical significance of the city could break through my pre-pubescent angst-atmosphere.

But Rome was fast friends with my stomach. I ate fabulously and enormously and most often outside, no calorie left behind. The crowning meal of the entire experience was a spaghetti carbonara that I will never forget for as long as I am among the living, and that I will probably still be talking about in the afterlife. “Magic Pasta,” I called it, ladling pancetta and Parmesan by the spoonful into my mouth. “I love Rome.” 

More: This recipe is our platonic ideal of carbonara.

In the decade since 7th grade many things have changed, including my onetime ability to eat only cheese and bacon for an entire meal without subsequently collapsing and fusing with my couch. So I give you this, the product of my 12-year-old desire for that Roman carbonara and my 23-year-old stabs at adulthood: Magic Kale Salad.

I suppose if you wanted to make this closer to carbonara you could plop a fried or poached egg on top, which now that I’m typing this I am so upset I didn't think of before, but even sans-egg this thing is salad gold. It is filling and hearty, but the toppings keep it from being…you know, a salad that doesn’t have bacon on it. Because 7th grade me would not have stood for such a salad, and sometimes I have to honor that little snarky lady in my past.


Perhaps embarrassingly, I have been bringing this salad to lunch in Ziploc bags. Just a salad in a bag, dressing and all, since the kale and sprouts are sturdy enough to stand up to it, riding the subway with me across the East River. I tuck it into the fridge between the home-brewed beer and the wheel of brie (hello, tech startup), and then dump it all into a bowl come lunchtime.

Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Honey Balsamic Dressing

Serves 2

For the salad:

2 cups Brussels sprout ribbons (about 6 Brussels sprouts, chopped width-wise to create ribbons)
2 cups chopped kale
3 strips bacon, cooked and chopped
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
Sprinkle of shelled sunflower seeds
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the dressing:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Phots by James Ransom

Order now

A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Holly
  • Katelyn
  • jaxcat
  • cookinalong
  • CarlaCooks
A fan of female driven comedies, a good beat, your hair today, and making foods for friends.


Holly January 12, 2015
I'm thinking to add some shelled edamame, too. THANKS for this recipe!
Katelyn October 23, 2014
I'm all about the bacon too. Just made this brussels sprouts recipe the other night, loaded with the stuff. Loved it! http://ambrosiaandnectar.com/loaded-brussels-sprouts/
jaxcat October 22, 2014
I can't do Brussels sprouts. Will doubling the Kale work, or do you have another idea? Also, I see using oven baked prosciutto instead of bacon. Yum!
Kendra V. October 22, 2014
totally, double kale will be great.
cookinalong October 22, 2014
Ahh! Bacon. Its seductive powers can make you forget you're eating kale. Go meat!
CarlaCooks October 21, 2014
Thank you for this! I've been eating way too much kale and cabbage and beans lately (my poor, poor stomach) and have had enough with feeling virtuous. This salad will be my in-between (or gateway drug?).