Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cook the Books: Kale and Pomegranate Salad

For this round - our December-January selection - of Cook the Books, This month’s book selection was chosen by Deb from Kahakai Kitchen. She chose Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home by Jessica Fletchor.* You can read Deb's invitation: here.

On the Page...
This memoir, written by Jessica Fechtor, recounts the ripples in her life after she had emergency brain surgery for a bleeding aneurysm. From the initial trauma to surgery to complications, Fechtor jumps back in forth in time to tell us of her adolescence, her courtship with her now husband, her life in academia, her medical emergency, her recovery, and her journey to become a mother.

This was difficult for me to read. When I was twenty-five one of our best friends had brain surgery to remove a tumor. Fechtor's passages about the hospital and surgeries reminded me of those uncertain days. And, more recently, I lost a dear friend to brain cancer. She had just turned thirty-eight years old and left a husband and two toddlers. She battled long and hard, but one of the first symptoms I remember her sharing was the loss of vision in her left eye. As I read about Fechtor's loss of sight, a knot formed in my stomach.

Throughout all of this turmoil, Fechtor infuses memories of food. And each chapter ends with a recipe that is meaningful to her, meaningful to the narrative we just read.

I adore her view on the power of food.

Food has powers. It picks us up from our lonely corners and sits us back down, together. It pulls us out of ourselves, to the kitchen, to the table, to the diner down the block. At the same time, it draws us inward. Food is the keeper of our memories, connecting us with our pasts and with our people. allows us, in some small way, to act out who we are. ...Food - like art, like music - brings people together, it's true. It begins, though, with a private experience, a single person stirred, moved, and wanting company in that altered state.  So, we say, "You have to taste this." We say, "Please take a bite."

On the Plate...
Inspired by her Kale and Pomegranate Salad, I created my own version. First, I thought I had pomegranate molasses in my cabinet; I usually do. It turns out it was mulberry molasses. I used it anyway. Second, we like our kale a little bit more softened than just raw kale dressed. So, my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf massaged the dressing into the kale, breaking down the fibers a bit more. I also didn't have any pistachios, so pecans were it. This was delicious and I loved the addition of mustard into the dressing. We'll definitely be making this more often.


  • 2 bunches dinosaur kale, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 C pomegranate arils
  • 1/4 C raw pecan pieces
  • 5 T olive oil + more to taste
  • 2 to 3 T red wine vinegar + more to taste
  • 1 T mulberry molasses (or pomegranate molasses)
  • 1/2 t Dijon mustard

Place the dinosaur kale in a large mixing bowl. Add in the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and mustard. Massage the dressing into the kale until the kale turns a bright emerald green and softens. Stir in the mulberry molasses, pomegranate arils, and pecan pieces. Toss to incorporate. Serve immediately.

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  1. I have got to get started on this book. I love the combo of kale and poms!

  2. I am sorry for the difficulty you had in reading it. The wife of an old friend of mine had an aneurysm this past year and I found parts of it challenging as well, knowing what she went through. It makes it hard when it relates to someone we know and care about. And I am so sorry for the loss of your friend.

    Your salad looks delicious. It is amazing what a little massage can do for kale, isn't it? I love the sound of the dressing too.

    Thanks for joining in this round. ;-)

    1. Thanks for hosting, Deb. Though it was tough for me to read, it was a wonderful book.

  3. I think this was a hard book for many of us Cam. I almost made the kale salad as well. Sounds wonderful.

  4. I think I blitzed by this recipe in the book, but after reading your take on it, definitely want to give it a try. We also like our kale a bit softer.

  5. Mulberry molasses? How interesting. I like how the pomegranate arils sparkle against the dark green kale. Great choice of recipe!

  6. Oh wow- this salad looks amazing!!

  7. I never heard of mulberry molasses and not sure it's available in my neck of the woods. Great looking salad. It was a good book and must have been hard reliving what happened to your friend. Well written,

  8. I liked all the recipes in this book, but this one looked healthful and refreshing. I'd make it with swiss chard though for a twist. The book itself was the one I enjoyed most recently


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