Every once in a while, my sweetheart and I come down with matching headaches. We're both employed in jobs that we love, jobs that fuel both our creative passions and keep the roof of our beloved 1970s mini ranch house (someday, I've got to post a house tour of our day, when I can get all the cooking debris and dog toys and power tools cleared away simultaneously) over our heads. But still, headaches happen in even the best of jobs and circumstances. On those days, my one and only sometimes calls me from the road and asks warily, ' you want to have crappy pizza tonight and not actually cook anything?'

He says crappy pizza like it's a bad thing. I see it as more of a life preserver.

This is just to say, crappy-wonderful pizza happens from time to time, even in the supposedly glamorous culinary life of a food stylist. It's real, it's honest, it's covered in unidentifiable cheese and dubious bell peppers, and man, I kind of love it. Tonight, we'll be having bad pizza and great wine, and sitting on the couch watching a music competition show whose name I won't reveal. We'll get back to your regularly scheduled kale salads any moment now. This one below is a particularly good one, full of earthy, autumnal flavor in the form of a sweet-tart white miso and apple cider vinegar dressing. If you're not having one of those headache days yourself, this is exactly what I suggest you make for dinner. 

But if you are? 

Then I and my raised slice of utilitarian pizza salute you, and wish you better days (full of delicious, flavor-packed kale salads) ahead.

Kale Salad with Sliced Honeycrisps & Miso-Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Serves 2

For the salad:

1 head of Tuscan kale (size varies, but you'll need about 3 cups once it's washed & sliced) 

1 Honeycrisp apple, thinly sliced with peel still on (I love Honeycrisps, but when they're not available, I'd reach for a similarly crisp, sweet-tart apple like a Pink Lady or Gala)

1/4 cup grated or finely shaved Manchego

1/4 cup raw pepitas

For the dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup white miso paste

2 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons minced shallot

salt & pepper, to taste

Rinse kale leaves and trim away stems with a knife, then slice into thin ribbons. I like to throw it into a colander at this point and rinse it again, while massaging with my fingers for a few minutes under warm running water. This gets it extra squeaky clean, and has the added benefit of softening up the kale so that it's nice and tender (kale leaves can be stubborn things sometimes). Let all the excess water drain from the colander, blotting kale with a towel if necessary, then transfer to a large serving bowl. 

In a mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, miso paste and honey into a thick, creamy dressing. Add shallots, a small amount of salt & pepper to taste (adjust as necessary), then pour dressing over kale and toss to mix thoroughly. Add sliced apples, Manchego and pepitas, toss gently a few more times to combine, then serve.