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When Aaron and I moved to the Yakima Valley in 2005, we thought it would be for a short pit stop. We came for a job and planned to climb the corporate ladder as quickly as possible. We were newly married, in our early 20s and eager to establish ourselves.

In reality, we lived in a teeny tiny apartment and knew absolutely no one. We were a little lost in our new town, turned around quite literally, as I regularly got lost driving home from work. But we were young and had lots of energy, so we quickly set out to make friends out of work colleagues, figure out the nearest Starbucks to our respective places of employment and look for fun wherever we could find it.

We started to hear the buzz about the area’s growing wine industry. Friends would invite us to go wine tasting and we never felt so grown up as when we signed up for our first wine club membership. Back then I had no idea what wine was supposed to taste like and my palate was probably more geared toward the pink wine-in-a-box from my college years.

But it was fun to learn about and helped us get oriented to the Yakima Valley. We sat on patios looking out on Mount Adams and the Yakima River. We walked along hilly vineyards and tasted grapes off the vine. We had picnics on lazy hot summer days and sipped wine from Yakima to Prosser. It didn’t take long to figure out Yakima is a very special place to live.

Fast-forward 15 years and according to the Yakima Valley tourism website, the Valley is home to more than 120 wineries and five American Viticulture Areas (AVA’s) in just 70 miles. The Yakima Valley contains more than 17,000 acres of producing vineyards, proudly growing more than half of Washington state’s wine grapes.

I still don’t know that much about wine, other than I very much enjoy a glass on a sunny patio with friends. I’ve lost my taste for sweet wine, leaning toward smooth, full-flavored reds. I find pouring myself a small glass while I make a meal is one of life’s great pleasures. I love to add wine to recipes, adding a splash to marinades and sauces to increase the complexity and flavor profile of whatever I’m making. The wine enhances and accents the flavors and aroma of the food, not masking or competing with it. As a sign I saw in a winery once pointed out: “I love cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in my food.” No truer words.

Because it’s early spring and the evenings are just a touch warmer and sunnier every day, I have a recipe perfect for an evening out on the patio. All you need is a loaf of crusty bread and your favorite bottle of wine for a flavorful delicious meal. Torn kale and shredded Brussels sprouts are combined with roasted sweet potatoes, chickpeas, a crunchy apple and a delicious lemon vinaigrette. It’s a meal in a bowl. Add some seared salmon or a grilled ribeye, sliced thinly, if you want a little extra protein.

Salad Recipe

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, washed, de-stemmed and chopped
  • 2 cups shredded Brussels sprouts
  • 1 large sweet potato, diced
  • 1 medium avocado, diced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1 Cosmic Crisp apple, diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 3 ounces crumbled goat cheese (optional)
  • Lemon Dijon vinaigrette (recipe below)

Combine kale and brussels sprouts in a large bowl. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil and the juice of half a lemon over the vegetables. Toss gently to combine. Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper and set aside.

Set oven to 425 degrees. Wash, peel and dice sweet potato. Drain and rinse chickpeas. Combine sweet potatoes, chickpeas and cashews in a bowl. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and toss so everything is well-coated. Sprinkle paprika, turmeric, garlic and cumin over the mixture with a liberal pinch of kosher salt.

Separate the diced sweet potatoes onto their own cookie sheet. Bake in the 425-degree oven for about 30 minutes until the sweet potatoes are tender and golden brown. Remove from oven and add to bowl of kale and Brussels sprouts. Using the same hot baking sheet, place the chickpeas and cashews on the tray. Bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes until the chickpeas begin to pop and the cashews are golden brown. Remove from oven and add to the bowl.

Add the Cosmic Crisp apple, avocado and dried cherries to the salad. Drizzle with lemon Dijon vinaigrette and a final sprinkle of kosher salt before serving immediately. Serves four generous dinner-size salads.

Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • (or 1 teaspoon dried parsley)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small lidded jar. Shake well until ingredients are well-combined. Use a spoon to drizzle dressing over salad. Store extras in the refrigerator for a salad later in the week.