Now, I realize that a raw kale salad might not sound very promising. Too many vitamins and minerals, too much health, too much green to still be edible, let alone enjoyable. But kale in a Caesar-style salad with a lemony dressing, crunchy homemade croutons and a flurry of Parmesan? Amazing. (One of my vegetable-and-salad-averse friends went for seconds on this batch. For raw kale!) My friend Kathy got me hooked on them by serving her garlicky, snappy version at a dinner she hosted, and this salad is now in permanent, frequent rotation at my house.
The sturdy, flavor-packed recipe stands up well to all sorts of robust main dishes (we had it most recently with grilled pork chops), and unlike other leafy salads, it actually improves if you dress it ahead, as the dressing’s acidity will tenderize the leaves. The salad’s brightness also makes it a great season-straddling way to use kale, when the leafy greens starts popping up at the market but it doesn’t seem quite right to start braising and soup-making just yet.
Kale Caesar Salad
adapted from Bi Rite Market’s Eat Good Food, 2012
- one large bunch of lacinto or dino kale, about 12 oz
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- two anchovy fillets
- one large lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
- kosher salt
- fresh-cracked ground pepper
for the croutons:
- half loaf of day-old country bread
- extra-virgin olive oil
- pinch kosher salt
- dried parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice or tear the bread into 1″ hunks. On a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and parsley and toss to coat. Bake for about 12 minutes, flipping halfway through, until crispy and golden brown. (Your croutons make take more or less time in the oven, depending on the type of bread you have and how stale it is, so it’s best to keep an eye on them.) Set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, rinse the kale well and pat dry. Discard any thick ribs from the greens and tear into large bite-sized pieces. Add to your serving bowl. On a cutting board, mince the garlic and anchovy. Sprinkle with a healthy pinch of salt and smash with the flat edge of your knife to make a paste. Transfer to a small bowl and add the olive oil, mustard, two tablespoons of lemon juice, half the grated cheese and several grindings of black pepper. Whisk to combine. Take a leaf and dip into the dressing to taste; add more lemon juice or salt to your taste.
Pour the dressing over the kale, and with your hands, toss to combine, massaging the dressing into the leaves to help tenderize them, about 2-3 minutes. (If you have time, let the salad sit for 5 extra minutes to let the kale soak up some of the dressing.) Smash two of your croutons into little bits over the salad, add the rest of croutons and the remaining cheese; toss to combine and serve.