Monday, May 13, 2013

The Ultimate Kale Salad


Photo of Birdy and kale by Douglas Merriam, courtesy of FamilyFun (where I published almost exactly this recipe but without the breadcrumbs. I'm sorry FamilyFun! I wasn't holding out on you! I just hadn't seen the light).
Things are breaking up a little here, straining at the seams. In the Venn diagram, the circle of my happy, beautiful life is overlapping exactly with the circle of my thrumming fretfulness. It’s lilacs and lilies of the valley and violets, purple-scented perfume breathing into our windows where I lie with my beloved partner, where our thriving children sleep with the rosy blossoms of their faces tipped up into the moonlight. And also my oldest friend has been ill, my heart’s companion of 41 years, and this illness is the hazy double of all the rest of it, the ghost outline of every dogwood tree and Mother’s Day card and meal and thought. I don’t really know how to write about it, except to say that sometimes I feel like I’m living multiple simultaneous lives. It’s not that I don’t love baked beans and great novels and spring and kids, because I do, and this is really my real and happy daily-ness (as it is hers). And also there’s this other thing that I can’t write about, and that isn’t really mine for the telling, that is the dark side of this blog’s moon, if you know what I mean. Also, because she will get better, it seems silly to burden you.
I took this one myself just yesterday!
Anyways. I don’t know why I mention this now, except that I sighed a little existentially as I was uploading this recipe (Kale? So what.). Even though this is possibly the single best recipe I have ever shared, so please, please don’t let my sighing angst deter you from making and loving it, which you should and will! And you’re like, Haven’t I already made your kale slaw before? That one with the lemon? Or that one with the walnuts? And you have, and those were great, they were. But this one is better. This is the new and improved one (Now with new sudsers that actually gets your clothes clean!) that forces me to confess that the others must have been ever-so-slightly imperfect, because of the perfectness.

I posted, and then deleted, the one with Michael's parmesan-grating middle finger fully extended. I am not currently entirely confident about my sense of humor.
The Ultimate Kale Salad
Makes 1 large bowlful
Total time: 15 minutes

This is, currently, my most-requested recipe. I don’t mean to be immodest, but the number of people here for dinner who tentatively hold their plates out, “Oh, just a little for me,” and make the ew-kale face—and then return for an unseemly amount of seconds? Well, it’s a big number. Raw kale salad is, simply, the greenest-tasting thing I know, and it converts everyone who thinks they don’t like kale, because they’re thinking steamed and stinky, and are then shocked and delighted to be served a bright, fresh tangle of salad.

Also, I’m usually flexible, I know, but I have lots of picky notes here about trying to follow the recipe as written. There is something so utterly balanced about this, with the rich, salty cheese and the crunchy breadcrumbs against the tangy, garlicky greens. You’ll see. Also, this doubles well—so you should double it. (As shown in the photos below, where I am making lots.)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) breadcrumbs (Note: if you don’t have any, just put a slice or two of any kind of bread in the blender! But maybe don’t use the dusty cardboard-scented kind from a cardboard can, which will not be tasty here.)
1 healthy bunch of very fresh kale (ideally the lacinato or dinosaur variety, which is sweeter and has a better texture here, but any kind is good)
¼ cup olive oil
1 to 2 large cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, and finely minced or put through a garlic press
2 tablespoons sherry VINEGAR (Not cream sherry, not cooking sherry. Balsamic or white-wine vinegar makes a good, but not ideal, substitute.)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan

Heat the 1 tablespoon of oil in a smallish pan over medium heat and fry the breadcrumbs, stirring some, and then later more, until they are very brown and toasty, which will take longer than you might imagine (5 or so minutes). Set them aside in a bowl so that they don’t burn in the still-hot pan.

Wash and dry the kale. Now strip the ruffly leaves off the kale's stems by grasping the bottom of each stem and pulling your hand up it forcefully. Discard the stems. Stack and bunch the leaves together, then use a large, very sharp knife to sliver them as fine as you can. Put the slivered kale in a large bowl. (Any thoughts on the stems? I’m starting to think it’s silly to compost them and that I should either a) not bother stripping the leaves or b) find a great kale-stem recipe.)

Now, in a tiny pan, heat the oil over medium heat and fry the garlic in it until fragrant and just on the verge of coloring (which you will need to intuit, given that it won’t have colored yet!). Add the salt and vinegar, and stir for another minute as the vinegar sizzles furiously and the whole thing foams and becomes outrageously fragrant. Pour half the hot dressing over the kale and toss very thoroughly with a pair of tongs. Then get in there with your hands and massage it until the leaves are glossy and dark. Now taste it, and add more dressing as needed. Stir in the cheese and breadcrumbs, taste for salt and vinegar, and serve.










49 comments:

  1. Rhylin11:23 AM

    I plan to try this tonight. Would it be terrible if I used bottled garlic? I'm always too lazy to buy the cloves. And why is kosher salt saltier than heathen salt? Also, you might want to check that link on how to strip the kale leaves. I was thinking that perhaps you'd actually included an instructive video on stripping kale, or had written about it previously, so I clicked on the link and although I'm sure my husband will be pleased that I did so, the attached info really didn't give me much info about kale or salad. :-)

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    1. Just the old unreliable sense of humor acting up again. Bottled garlic? I don't know! Report back.

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    2. HA! Maybe indicate that link was NSFW...I clicked it from work LOL and quickly back out! Also, this recipe looks delicious, but it seems like one I will think, "I know I love this dish, but it sounds not great so I am not making it." Much like kale chips which I do love, but I only make when my children beg me (and in this I feel a kinship with you...YES! my kids beg for kale chips...but turn up their nose at most other veggies...you have done so much better than I!).

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  2. LMAO thanks for the tips for the dinner table and the bedroom!

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  3. Sorry about your friend. I sympathize in a big way. And "not entirely confident in my sense of humor" is great! Can also sympathize with THAT in a big way :-)

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  4. I've been making this similar kale salad ever since last fall, which means I am forced to make my own preserved lemons every few months. I'm going to try yours. But I had one in a restaurant last week in which they left the stems in-- they just cut each leaf very, very thinly all the way from top to bottom. When I ate the salad, the stems didn't bother me at all. I resoved to do that from now on!

    http://www.eatingfromthegroundup.com/2012/02/what-to-do-with-preserved-lemons/

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  5. Thinking of you and your friend. Thanks for the recipe, can't wait to try it!

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  6. I have a thousand baby kale plants in the garden, but I don't think I can wait for them to grow up to try this salad. I might have to (gasp) buy some kale at the store.

    The stems are my favorite part! I love them sauteed with olive oil and the tiniest bit of coarse salt. They stay crunchy and so flavorful. Sometimes I'll throw an egg in the pan when they're almost done and make that my meal. Great for breakfast or lunch.

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  7. Rhylin4:44 PM

    Ha! Love that the link was deliberate. Makes it that much better. Couldn't you just save the stems and chuck them into vegetable soup? I disguise all sorts of barely edible things in my famous "rotting vegetable soup." BTW, I am so excited that I'm able to post on here now! Historically it was restricted to Americans for some reason. It's possible that I'll be blocked now that I've admitted to being an outsider (from Canada - gasp!). We'll see what happens.

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  8. Ack, I just got back from the market but I feel an (unreasonable) urge to march right back out again and get some kale! (And also, so sorry about your friend.)

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  9. Theresa8:00 PM

    The kale is inspiring me to post for the first time after years and years and years of faithful reading. Made it tonight and I have to say that's some freaking good kale! Thanks for sharing this and all the wonderful other stuff you have shared over the years. And, especially thank you for sharing that link. Ahem. It actually did help me conceptualize how to tackle the stem. :-)

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  10. Anonymous11:32 PM

    Just because of you and your fab sounding recipes, I'm going to have to invest in some sherry vinegar (the fried egg one also sounds worth the investment). I often worry that I will come across as not at all funny, and as it relates to commenting to you - stalkerlike. I love all of your work (I cried when Brain, Child was going to end, and then read ALL of your Baby Center posts in a very short period of time) and am sending sympathy about your friend. I look forward to reading your report when she is back to normal.
    My question: Any thoughts on a gluten free substitute for the bread crumbs? GF bread is generally terrible. Pumpkin seeds, maybe?

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  11. Made tonight out here in hot, low 90s already California where it felt too hot too cook and lucky me, had 2 bunches of kale in the fridge waiting on some inspiration. I know you wanted us to be fussy and exact, and I was about 90%. Outstanding, I had many many servings for myself. Will go into summer rotation. Kids didn't try but should/ would and will, not a thing about it they wouldn't like. Love Marisa's suggestion to throw an egg in the kale pan, so simple, deelish, and done. Rocket science those eggs.

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  12. I made this last night, just after reading recipe...talk about instant gratification. And yes, it is pretty much the greenest thing I've ever tasted. And yummy. Sounds hard to live your normal lovely life *and* be worried and devestated about your friend's illness.

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  13. Sheri8:55 PM

    eat more kale

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  14. Too bad I used up all the kale in the fridge this afternoon making the children kale chips for their afternoon snack. This looks delicious and I want to make it right now! And thanks for the helpful "kale-stripping" link--I know I can always count on your blog to make me smile when I'm a crankypants, which I most certainly was tonight. (My poor daughters could all confirm this little fact.)

    Thinking of you and your friend and sending healing vibes and good thoughts your way. XO

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  15. Hope your friend is getting better.
    This is perfect timing, as my husband asked me last week, "When are you going to start up the kale regimen again?" I guess my obsession with brussels sprouts had bumped kale from the menu for a while. I will try this because, honestly, crispy, oily bread crumbs make everything better.

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  16. Hi! Its me http://www.zuup.com/what-is-zuup and I am amazed with your blog. Your post are really interesting. I will keep on visiting your site to check out for your new post. Have a great day!!

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  17. The stems are gross. Let them go. The salad is on our menu this week. Can't wait to try it!

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  18. Anonymous3:06 PM

    Catherine, I'm so sorry about your friend and all of the "shadow feelings" it entails for both of you! Sending you both a big hug! I cut my lacinato kale stems into 1/2 inch pieces and cook them slowly in a mixture of 50% water and 50% olive oil with a healthy amount (read ALOT) of salt and some pepper. The oil/water mixture should come 1/2-3/4 of the way up the pile of stems in the pot. Check them occiassionally adding water as necessary. It takes a ridiculous amount of time for them to cook, but they get all soft and taste sort of like old fashioned green beans. You can leave them whole and eat them as is as a side, or smush them up and put them on toasted baguette pieces with goat cheese etc. Yum!

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    1. Oooooh. I am so doing this! I LOVE old-fashioned green beans. . . xo

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  19. Anonymous6:14 PM

    when you are ready, I would love to know more as we are all dealing with life situations like yours, and just as we love to know about the youthful joys we need to share the insights about the dark sides of the moon too. I am very sorry to know about your friend, but I know there's a lot going on here and I find your writing very helpful

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  20. Anonymous6:15 PM

    and *I* am anonymous because I have no idea how to post any other way.

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  21. What a range of emotions. I suppose that is life, but it isn't easy.

    My husband loves your recipes...

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  22. Ha, I remembered the Family Fun reference. I always wondered how closely they critiqued your posts or if Disney were actually cooler than I thought (which is not very, I only went to their site because of you). I'm sorry you're going back and forth between realities right now, but I hope your friend is already on the mend. I'm sure your cooking and wit will help her along tremendously.

    Oh wow, my verification is Assmme first. As in, "If you want candy, you have to assmme first!" Is that funny? Now I'm self-conscious, too.

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  23. Anonymous9:26 AM

    Made this last night, twice, awesome both ways, once with feta for veggies friend who is pregnant and on bed-rest (oy!) and then for my family, except, I know you will appreciate this, for us I made bacon first and added a tbsp of the bacon grease also, it was amazing. And I don't like kale! But these were yummy, thanks so much! Oh, and I made your veggie burgers for my friend also, subbing quinoa for the bulgur, awesome! I can't find bulgur!!

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  24. Oh so good! Be careful when you make that dressing - it spits! I got one drop bazingo! right on the forehead. Good thing kale has so many anti-oxidants. I healed immediately. Thanks for sharing it.

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  25. I love kale!! I will definitely try this recipe!

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  26. Anonymous12:08 PM

    Made this Friday night and we all LOVED it. It's already on the menu again for tonight. Reminds me of a caesar salad but with so much more substance and yumminess! Thanks for another amazing recipe, Catherine!

    --Rebecca
    P.s. I can't figure out how to post as anything other than anonymous either.

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  27. Thought you'd like this, if you haven't seen it already: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/16/fashion/kale-salads-are-hot-in-manhattan-social-circles.html?src=recg

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  28. Hi! Its me http://www.zuup.com/what-is-zuup and I am amazed with your blog. Your post are really interesting. I will keep on visiting your site to check out for your new post. Have a great day!!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Sunski10:58 AM

    Another family of kale converts here. Actually, the family always tolerated kale, but this recipe they loved. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

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  30. Where to buy the sherry vinegar? Target and Trader Joes didn't have it. Do I have to go to the fancy oil and vinegar place? I always come home with weird stuff like maple balsamic vinegar and then the kids are all like, "ew, why are you putting vinegar on your pancakes?" and I'm like, "I made pancakes so hush, you can put whatever you want on yours" and then I swirl it around and the smell lingers in the air for hours, and not in a bad way. But then after the pancakes I'm like, "oh crap, I went into the store for sherry vinegar and so I can't make that kale salad" so I go back and come out with Tuscan Olive Oil because it sounds so good for the asparagus... save me. Is there a normal store that sells this stuff?

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    1. STF: try the supermarket! All our super-basic supermarkets have it. The brand you're most likely to see is Columela. Report back! xo

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  31. Rhylin3:34 PM

    Tried the salad with balsamic vinegar (couldn't find sherry vinegar in our supermarket) and Costco chopped/bottled garlic and it was a HUGE hit. Didn't even have to use the special "how to strip the kale leaves" link because my husband was already so happy from the salad that no more effort was needed on my part. Okay, that sounds kind of gross. He wasn't happy with the salad in that way. He just really liked it and asked me to make it again.

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  32. Kale stems: find a friend (if you don't quality) with a vegan pet - pet rabbits or guinea pigs (we have both) LOVE the trimmings from most vegetables, and I don't feel as bad about taking off the parts we like less, if I give them to another animal to eat. Chickens will also eat a lot, and of course pigs. Each of them have a few taboo foods though, so you do have to read up a bit. Yum, thanks for the recipe!

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  33. Middle fingers are always funny! :)

    I hope your friend gets well soon.

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  34. This recipe looks amazing, and I'm dying to try it. Two days until the farmer's market up in here, and then this kale salad is happening.

    I (as much as possible, not knowing you or your friend) understand about the dark side of the moon, re: a close friend's illness. A friend of mine was struck with a sudden, aggressive cancer a couple of years ago, and the outcome was unknown. Her life crumbled as I'd imagine any of ours would and I felt helpless to help (I mean, I jumped to action setting up a meal-delivery calendar and what have you, but to REALLY help... There was nothing) and also like it wasn't my story to tell in terms of where I write and chronicle what's 'going on.' She survived -- she's okay! -- but it is hard to see these kinds of things happen to those we know and love, and to know they could just as easily happen to those even closer in our orbit, to our families, to ourselves. And meanwhile to be present and joyful and grateful and not living in fear. Life's challenge.

    Anyway, I am sending good juju to your friend, and to you, and appreciation for this lovely salad.

    Taylor Alt-Mama

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  35. Anonymous5:58 AM

    Oh Catherine, that kale salad.is.so.good. My husband hated it and refused to eat it (no dessert for him!), but the kids and I loved it, with a couple of tweaks: I misread the recipe and added 1 cup of breadcumbs instead of 1/2 and we squeezed lots of lemon juice on it. Gosh I feel like a Good Mum when I get the kids to eat this amount of green stuff :-)
    Loretta in Australia

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  36. Anonymous2:17 PM

    My husband is a reluctant kale eater, and he loved this!
    For kale stems- I've made stem and core pesto from Tamar Adler's Everlasting Meal with broccoli stems and loved it. Have not tried it yet with kale stems, but would imagine it is just as good.

    http://eatwell.com/2013/05/22/garlicky-leaf-stem-and-core-pesto/

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  37. god, the timing. here i was, avoiding life, wishing i had a kale recipe. and boom! you deliver.

    also, best technical link ever.

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  38. YUM! We made this last night and LOVED it! As for the stems, feed them to your guinea pig :)

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  39. Anonymous10:22 AM

    Last night several people at the potluck were writing down the recipe (as I recited it for them) on the backs of dirty paper plates, so desperate were they to create this for themselves with their kale farmshare abundance. Am I awful for not just sending them here? I think I must have wanted to seem like the kale genius myself... I am now feeling guilty, and may email the ones who I have an address for, so that you can get full credit.

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  40. Stephanie1:18 PM

    I have made this a bunch of times since you posted and just today for lunch...while I had it pulled up on the screen I thought I would comment! I keep printing it out and then having to give my paper away! So good...

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  41. Catherine, first of all, how is your friend? I hope she is all better since this post is from a few months ago!

    As far as I know, I've never had kale. Bizarre perhaps, but that's how it is! I've purchased it and fed it to my bunnies, and probably tasted part of a leaf (maybe?), but that's it. I've been wanting to make your awesome kale salad ever since you posted it (made your broccoli one a couple months ago!) and my poor husband is sick so I thought some nice, healthy greens would go well with homemade chicken noodle soup.

    Please don't take me out back and flog me, but I used apple cider vinegar. The store didn't have sherry vinegar and I didn't see your note about white wine vinegar! Used balsamic for your broccoli salad (since the store didn't have sherry vinegar when I made it, either), and thought I'd try something else. I also used a bit more vinegar because we love it (we eat tomato and cucumber salad with just vinegar, no oil!), and had to leave out the bread crumbs. My cranky pants, ill husband despises bread crumbs! I promise next time I make this recipe, I'll make the bread crumbs and just leave them out of his, because they sound amazing!

    Anyway, we loved the salad. I mean, we LOOOOOVED it. So very, very yummy! Another commenter remarked that it reminded her of caesar salad, and I definitely get that! It was just a wonderful salad and I'm delighted to have another really easy, quick salad recipe! My dude can be kind of picky about salad sometimes, but he hoovered this down while his homemade, took 3 hours to make chicken noodle soup (that he requested) sat there in the bowl.

    Oh and I loved the link about "removing kale from the stem", slipping that in your post is just one of the reasons I adore your writing style and your blog!

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  42. I've been making this regularly and bringing it for lunch at work. I add pomegranate seeds - the tartness is a wonderful addition, and it looks so pretty!

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