“ It is the healthiest green vegetable there is,” BD from Earth Wind Farms told me in 1999. I had been buying bunches of the dark green curly leaves to line baskets of crudité. And while I believed him, I admit it took me ten years to finally start enjoying it. And, I think, this is due, in part, to the revolutionary changes in how kale is popularly served.
When I look back though older cookbooks, recipes for kale were always prepared cooked rather then eaten raw. The Joy of Cooking (early editions) simply says to cook kale following the rules for cooking spinach and allowing more time for it to become tender. Mark Peel in The Foods of Campanile offers a recipe for sautéed kale with crisp garlic as a wonderful side dish to roasted poultry or other hearty fare. In The Chez Panisse Vegetables, recipes include both sautéed kale and kale and potato soup.
Then in early 2000 kale really started getting some attention when Laciniato Kale, an heirloom Italian variety also called dinosaur kale, started appearing at the farmers markets. The dark blue-green leaves have an embossed texture and a slightly sweeter and more delicate taste than the curly kales more pungent, bitter, peppery flavor.
Finally, it was Chef Michele Molony who passed on a recipe from 101 Cookbooks for a raw kale salad. The center rib of the kale is removed and the leaves are cut into a fine chiffonade. The kale is then massaged with a lemon dressing which tenderizes the leaves. Garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, almonds, and lemony breadcrumb are then tossed in. The salad is bright, chewy, crunchy, and simply delicious. Eating kale became a whole new experience in its raw form.
We adapted the 101 cookbook recipe to use all local ingredients for the first Santa Barbara Edible Conference and have been loving the recipe ever since.
Kale is available year round in Santa Barbara, though the best growing seasons are the colder months of winter though late spring. Kale provides protein, calcium, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory agents.
Other seasonal ways we serve kale salads:
~Lemony Tuscan Kale Salad with Lemon, Almonds and Toasted Breadcrumb
~Kale Salad with Roasted Grapes, Walnuts and Blue Cheese
~ Shaved Apple and Kale Salad with Lemon, Shaved Parmesan, and Almonds
(And yes we still serve kale sautéed with garlic. We can`t help being traditionalists at heart.)
Raw Tuscan Kale Salad
- 1 bunch Tuscan kale (for example: black or laciniato)
- ½ cup of good quality homemade breadcrumbs
- 1 or 2 garlic clove
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
- 5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for garnish
- Zest of one organic lemon
- 3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon)
- 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup almonds roughly chopped. (I love Fat Uncle Farm’s blistered almonds; you can also use pine nuts)
1. Trim the bottom few inches off the kale stems and discard. Remove the center rib of the kale, stack the leaves and cut into a fine chiffonade. Wash and spin dry. You should have 4 to 5 cups. Place the kale in a large bowl.
2. To make the breadcrumbs: If using fresh bread, tear it into small pieces and pulse in a food processor until the mixture forms coarse breadcrumbs. Sauté the breadcrumbs with 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil, the lemon zest, salt, and red pepper flakes until a light golden color. Season to taste with more zest or salt. Add the chopped pine nuts or blistered almonds. Set aside.
3. Using a mortar and pestle or a knife, pound or mince the garlic and ¼ tsp. of salt into a paste. Transfer the garlic to a small bowl. Whisk in 3 tbsp. olive oil, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and black pepper.
4. Pour the dressing over the kale and toss very well massaging the kale to make sure the leaves absorbs the dressing. Let the salad sit for 5 minutes, then toss in the Parmesan and breadcrumb. Serve garnished with additional cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
~ Chiffonade means to cut vegetables or herbs into fine strips or ribbons.
~ I do not recommend using prepackaged sliced kale. The center rib is usually not removed which will cause the salad to have a bitter taste.
~ I always wash the kale after I cut it. I find it easier and it is a habit that come from preparing 100 bunches of kale in a day in our catering kitchen when we make kale salad for wedding receptions.