Today was a salad-for-breakfast kind of day. And a salad-for-lunch-kind of day. And a salad-for-dinner kind of day. Not only that, it was a kale-salad-for-breakfast-lunch-dinner kind of day.
I was pretty late to the kale game. My first ever taste was nearly four years ago when I bought a big bunch of kale to help me decide whether to join a CSA. I had heard that in bad years, even in good years, you can go weeks on end with little more than kale and a few carrots in your weekly vegetable box. So I made a kale soup. I did end up buying into CSA, but the soup was decidedly on the con list, despite what may have I told you at the time).
And then for years, kale disappeared from my blog. It disappeared from my kitchen. It even disappeared from my CSA box (every week, I found some pour soul to trade their tomatoes/chard/potatoes/tomatoes for the prized kale; yeah, you never want to share food with me).
But it’s back, my friends. Kale is back. And with a vengeance. Three times this month. Thrice!
I took baby steps at first, using delicate tender baby kale leaves in a salad and a soup. And then, I dove right in. I skipped over the mild lacinato (dinosaur) variety and went straight for the red Russian. Imagine biting into curly parsley when you’re expecting Italian flat-leaf. That’s the difference between red Russian and baby kale.
But mix some kale with a little oil, a little acid, a little salt, and we’re in business. The leaves wilt just enough to become not merely palatable, but delicious. They absorb the flavors and then hold them in while resisting the wilt that their less hardy brethren are so prone to.
Dress it today, eat it tomorrow. Or, if you’re like me, dress it today, eat it this morning, this afternoon, and this evening.
Kale salad with ricotta salata, walnuts, and bread crumbs
I started this salad with Kim Severson‘s version (also reprinted in the New York Times where Mark Bittman called it The Kale and Ricotta Salata Salad, as if it were the only one worth knowing!) and then added parsley for its fresh flavor and toasted bread crumbs and walnuts for some crunch. Ricotta salata is ricotta cheese that has been pressed, aged, and dried. It is solid, but can crumble. If you can’t find it, a sheep’s milk feta could substitute (I like Pastures of Eden brand).
Serves 4 (or just 1 over the span of a day)
– 3-4 slices stale baguette (for 1/2 C crumbs)
– 1/2 C walnuts
– 1 t + 1/4 C olive oil, divided
– kosher salt and pepper
– 1 large shallot
– 1 lemon for juice (~2 T)
– 1 large bunch red Russian kale (approximately 6 C shredded and loosely packed)
– 8-10 parsley stems
– 1/4 lb (4 ounces) ricotta salata (1/2 C shredded)
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Blitz. Break the bread into pieces, including the crust, and then blitz in food processor or blender until you get large crumbs. If your bread isn’t stale, dry it out by placing it in the oven with the walnuts for about 5 minutes.
Toast. Spread the walnuts and bread crumbs out separate baking sheets and toast for about 10 minutes until fragrant and slightly golden. Drizzle the tablespoon of olive oil over the bread crumbs, sprinkle with salt, and mix with your hands.
Whisk or shake. Cut the shallot into several large pieces and mince it in a garlic press (or chop it very fine) into a bottle or bowl. Add the 1/4 cup oil and the juice of the lemon with a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Shake or whisk until emulsified.
Slice. Trim the leaves of the kale above where the stems become thick. Stack the leaves in a pile, roll them like a cigar, and slice it thin crosswise. Chop the parsley.
Assemble. Scoop the kale and parsley into a large bowl and add the dressing (this recipe makes the right amount of dressing for the salad, so no worries about over-dressing). Dig your hands in and toss the leaves with the dressing, and let the salad sit for about a half hour. At this point you can also leave the dressed leaves (and only the leaves) in the fridge overnight – they’ll continue to soften, but are hardy enough not to get soggy. Before serving, sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs and walnuts and shave the ricotta salata over the salad. Give a quick toss and serve.