holiday salad – perfect before a big holiday dinner

What to serve before a big holiday dinner? If you’re anything like me, searching for delicious vegetable appetizers and side dishes for the holidays is a favourite festive past time. There’s nothing I like better than cozying up in front of the fire-place, with a great big cup of tea, a stack of cook books and cooking magazines, searching for perfect ‘trimmings’. More often than not, I’m seduced by decadence. Cream drowned, butter saturated recipes that all but bury whatever vegetable I’m using. Until now…

My friend, Liz, served the original version of this salad to me last weekend. I’ve made it three times since. As Liz would say, “it’s off the charts!” It’s a Martha Stewart recipe that I’ve adapted to serve over the holidays. I pulled back on the intensity of the lemon vinaigrette by omitting the lemon zest, chose pistachios for color and flavour over the hazelnuts and added pomegranate seeds. The ruby colored pomegranate seeds not only taste amazing with the rest of the salad, they look gorgeous!

One important, rather strange, step to the success of this salad is the necessity of massaging the kale. I know it sounds wierd but trust me, your salad will be bitter if you try and skip the rub-down! It’s simple to do. After you remove the thick spine from all of the leaves, rub the greens together for about five minutes. You’ll see the kale leaves darken and become softer.

If you’re looking for something fresh, light and full of flavour to serve before a big holday meal, this is the dish!

CHRISTMAS SALADadapted from Martha Stewart’s Lemony Kale Salad

1 lemon, juiced
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
6 cups kale, ribs removed and coarsely chopped
½ cup Parmesan cheese, in large shards
¼ cup pistachios, shells removed
1 pomegranate, seeded
Freshly ground black pepper

holiday salad - the perfect trimming


  • Place a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add shelled pistachios and toss until slightly toasted.
  • Remove from heat to a chopping board to chop coarsely – set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice olive oil and salt until emulsified.
  • Add kale and toss to coat.
  • Using your hands, massage the lemony olive oil into the chopped kale leaves for 5 minutes. At this point the salad can sit for several hours or be served immediately.
  • Just before serving, add Parmesan, pistachios and pomegranate seeds.
  • Season with freshly ground pepper and toss well.

THE LOVE: Be sure not to omit the kale message or you’ll end up with a very bitter salad.

print recipe

Thanks for reading.

ps. I love it when you share my work. xo M

  • Gina

    Massaging kale, now THAT’s a bucket list item! haha Crazy but I think I get it. We eat kale a lot..this one will be on the “to try” list…if only to be able to say that in my life, I have massaged kale!!

    • Hi Gina, I thought it sounded crazy until I actually did it. Makes all the difference in the world!

      • Gina

        I made this last night for Mom & Dad. Dad DOESN’T eat salads, they’re for “rabbits”. He LOVED it! Mom went nuts over it…kept saying how pretty it was and how it looked like Holly – so absolutely perfect for Christmas. About the massaging…truth be told, I liked doing it, it was bizarre but fun. The kale is huge and crisp and as you massage it, it softens and reduces, sort of like when you cook it. One thing I’d change is to reduce the amount of oil. Or perhaps double the amount of kale.

        This will become a PERMANENT part of my “go to” salads. It’s stunning on the plate, fun to make and healthy!!

        • So pleased that your parents enjoyed it! I’ve made it so many times since Liz shared it with me…xo