It seems like everyone I meet wants to tell me about kale, their new culinary discovery. They speak about kale with such enthusiasm that they make the leafy green sound better than crisp bacon.
Some juice it, turning it into bright green elixir that is frequently spiked with fresh ginger. Some whirl it into thick yogurt-based liquids in powerful blenders, sweetening the vegetal taste with undiluted frozen orange juice.
At the root of the kale craze is the realization that raw chopped kale, either common curly kale or Tuscan kale, make delectable salads. Kale’s leathery leaves can be tamed, both in texture and taste, by marinating in citrusy vinaigrette for 20 to 30 minutes.
The first one I sampled was years ago at True Food Kitchen in Newport Beach. The restaurant’s menu is based on the principals of Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet.
Their revolutionary rendition of kale salad is very simple. The 1/4-inch wide shreds of Tuscan kale are marinated in a mixture of extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, smashed garlic, salt and a smidgen of dried red chili flakes. Once marinated, it is garnished with grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese and toasted whole wheat bread crumbs.
To see Nathan Coulon, former chef at True Food Kitchen, prepare Kale Salad in a short video = click here
Common Curly Kale: Almost without exception, supermarkets carry this variety. The leaves are green and have frilly edges. With thick central rib removed, it is delicious quickly cooked or served raw when marinated.
Tuscan Kale: Also dubbed lacinato, black kale, or dinosaur kale, this more-tender variety has puckered leaves that are such a deep green color they can almost look black. With thick central rib removed, it is delicious quickly cooked or served raw when marinated.
Now, almost every restaurant features some type of kale salad on their menu. Most add an element of sweetness to the dressing with a little honey, maple syrup or agave nectar. Often fresh or dried fruit is added to the mix, or chopped dates or sugared nuts. Some add tasty cheese, often either a grating cheese such as Parmesan, or crumbled feta.
Three Seventy Common, Laguna Beach, has one of my favorite interpretations. There, Chef-Owner Ryan Adams cuts the kale into narrow crosswise strips and soaks it in salt water to tame the greens. Once drained and dried, it is tossed with vinaigrette that features the juice of oranges, limes and lemons. The autumn version of the salad showcases sliced figs, apples, pickled grapes and toasted hazelnuts. Sheep-milk feta rounds out the dish to perfection.
But my homage to Chef Ryan’s creation is greatly simplified. Rather than marinating the greens, I use a mix of oh-so-tender baby kale and lettuce, thus avoiding the necessity for soaking. Some supermarkets are now selling clamshell containers of baby kale, the leaves of immature kale no longer than 1 1/2-inches.
Kale Salad – Homage to 370 Common Homage
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
1 tablespoon finely diced shallot
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
2 1/2 cups blend of extra-virgin olive oil and canola oil
5 cups baby kale
3 cups romaine lettuce or red leaf lettuce torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup red grapes, halved
1 unpeeled Gala apple or Fuji apple, cored, cut into large dice
3 fresh figs, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
Optional: 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup Marcona almonds or toasted slivered almonds, see cook’s notes
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, sheep-milk feta preferred
Cook’s notes: Chef Adams uses toasted and skinned hazelnuts; they are delicious but require more prep time. Spread nuts on rimmed baking sheet and toast in a 350-degree oven for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Wrap nuts in kitchen towel and set aside for 1 minute. Rub surface of towel to loosen skins. Don’t worry if some of the skin stays intact; cool.
1. In a blender combine all vinaigrette ingredients except oil; whirl until smooth and well combined. With motor running, add oil in thin stream.
2. In a large bowl, place kale, lettuce, grapes, apple and figs. If using, add cranberries or raisins. Stir vinaigrette. Add just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the leaves; toss. Place salads on plates. Top with nuts and cheese; serve.
Nutrition information (per serving): 160 calories, 38 percent of calories from fat, 6.7 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 21g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 350 mg sodium, 6 g fiber
Source: recipe adapted from Ryan Adams, executive chef/owner, Three Seventy Common, Laguna Beach