Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kale Caesar-esque Salad

It's time to meet a new member of the kale family: Tuscan kale.  Also known as black kale or lacinato kale (i.e. don't fret when your grocery store doesn't have anything named Tuscan kale), this kale isn't curly-leafed like the kale you are used to.  It also has a milder flavor and can be eaten raw.

If you don't believe me about the raw bit, just try this salad.  It is a life changer.

This salad will make you want to eat kale.  That's right, I said that.  You will actually want to eat kale and you will crave this salad.

I've made this Caesar-esque salad three times in two weeks.  It has even become a main dish in our house.

I know, I know, you seem skeptical.  Eating kale as dinner does not sound pleasant.  Try this salad and you will change your mind.

The kale leaves need to marinate with the dressing for at least five minutes to soften their flavor a bit.  Raw garlic and plenty of grated cheese give this salad lots of punch.  But the good kind of punch, not the punched in the face kind of way.

I always thought croutons were only good because they are fried bread.  This recipe uses either cut up toast or food-processed toast to make croutons or coarse crumbs (whichever you prefer - my favorite method is cutting the bread into cubes since that doesn't dirty a food processor).  You won't even notice that the bread isn't drenched in oil.  It tastes perfect.

If you can find the right kind of kale (you might need to wait until the winter depending on what part of the country you're in), you should give this simple and life-changing salad a try.  Afterwards, you are free to feel smug for at least a week for all the kale you ate.  Go for it.

Kale Caesar-esque Salad
From In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark (via Shutterbean, Sassy Radish, and 101 Cookbooks)

Makes two large servings

1 bunch Tuscan kale (also called black or lacinato kale)
3 pieces of good bread
1 garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus a pinch
1/4 c. finely grated Pecornio or Parmesan, plus more for garnish
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the bottom two inches off the kale stems and discard.  Using either a knife or your hands to remove the stems from the kale (you can hold the stem in place and rip up with your hands).  Rip or cut into bite-size pieces.  Place the kale in a large salad bowl.

Using a mortar and pestle or a heavy knife, pound or mince the garlic with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt until a paste forms.  In a small bowl (or your mortar), add in 1/4 cup Pecorino or Parmesa cheese, 3 tablespoons olive oil, the juice of one lemon, 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and freshly ground black pepper.  Mix together to form a thick, cheesy dressing.  Pour the dressing on the kale leaves, toss well, and let marinate for at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast 2 slices of bread until fairly dark (but not burnt).  Either chop into small pieces (my new favorite method) with a knife or grind in a food processor until coarse crumbs form.  Pour all pieces, including all crumbs, into the bowl with the kale.  Top with more grated cheese and toss well.

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