True Food Kitchen’s Winning Tuscan Kale Salad

Chefs, Cooking, Recipes, Restaurants By Feb 19, 2011

Nathan Coulon, former chef at True Food Kitchen at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, shared one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, a delectable salad that is so easy to prepare, it’s perfect to make at home.

The restaurant’s menu is based on the principals of Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet and food pyramid. Nutrient dense kale, the focal point of the salad, fits the bill.
Kale, but not the common variety with frilly, curly-edge green leaves. Not ornamental kale, with showy purple and green leaves, or green and white leaves.
Coulon uses Tuscan kale, cavolo nero in Italian (sometimes it is called “dinosaur kale”). The distinctive puckered leaves are such a deep green color that they almost look black. Once tossed with lemony vinaigrette and grated cheese, the salad sits for 5 to 30 minutes. Toasted fresh breadcrumbs are added, lending appealing flavor and texture.

Chef Profile: Prior to his work at True Food Kitchen, Coulon (a San Diego native and 2007 James Beard “Rising Star” Award nominee), was chef-owner of San Diego’s Modus Supper Club for two years. While at Modus, he created and executed a modern menu consisting of French, Belgian and California-inspired cuisine, using local and organic ingredients.

His resume also includes serving as executive chef for his mother’s pastry café, Dessertier, in La Jolla, California, as well as cooking at La Bastide De Saint Antoine, a two-star Michelin-rated restaurant in Grasse, France (oh boy, Grasse is where I’d like to retire). Early in his career, he also cooked at his grandparents’ restaurant, the Belgian Lion, in Ocean Beach, California.

The short video shows the trick for de-stemming and cutting kale.

True Food Kitchen’s Tuscan Kale Salad
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Juice of 1 lemon
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Dried red chili flakes to taste
4 to 6 cups Tuscan kale (cavolo nero) that has been washed, patted dry, midrib removed, loosely packed, sliced, see cook’s notes
2/3 cup grated Pecorino Toscano cheese, divided use, see cook’s notes
1/2 cup freshly made bread crumbs, lightly toasted
Cook’s notes: Chef Coulon removed the central rib by cupping his fingers over the stem then moving toward the tip of the leaf. Stacking several de-ribbed leaves together, he made a manageable package, by folding the leaves in half one direction, then in half the other direction. Then he cut the “package” into 1/4-inch wide crosswise slices.
As for the cheese, the Rossellino brand of Pecorino is preferred. But if you can’t find it other flavorful grating cheese can be used, such as Asiago or Parmesan.
Coulon says that you can use common, curly-edge kale for the salad; but because it has a coarse texture, you would need to steam it for a couple of minutes and cool it before tossing with the dressing. The texture would be different, but it would still taste good.
Tuscan kale is often sold at Whole Foods Markets.
1. Prepare vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a generous pinch (or more to taste) of hot red pepper flakes. Place kale in serving bowl. Add vinaigrette and toss well. Add 2/3 of the cheese and toss again. Let sit for at least 5 minutes.
2. Add bread crumbs and toss. Top with remaining cheese.
Source: True Food Kitchen, Newport Beach

Top: Cavolo nero (Tuscan kale or dinosaur kale). Bottom: common curly edge kale.

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