Kale. It may be one of the healthiest greens around, but we find it difficult to work into our meal plans. It has a strong flavor and it’s tough. Since it’s tough to chew, we often cook it in some fashion, but that seems to bring out more of the cabbage-y taste. Since we get kale from the CSA regularly, we’re always on the lookout for new kale recipes.
Just the other night, one of us happened to look at the menu listing for what was our favorite restaurant when we lived in New England: Simon Pearce. We always figure, why not look at the menu? We might not dine there regularly now, but we might get an idea or two. And, there on the menu was Kale Caesar salad! We figured, why not? Let’s scratch this up.
Now, we have no idea how Simon Pearce makes its Kale Caesar, so we just modified our Caesar Salad a bit, and not just with a replacement of kale for romaine. We also thought that we’d completely forgo the garlic that’s so overused in Caesar salads.
We violated one of the rules for making Caesar salad and we paid for it. We didn’t use fresh lemon juice — you should, though, do as we say … — and we could tell the difference, much to our regret. As far as the egg goes, it’ll be raw in the salad. If you’re concerned about this, you can coddle it (dip in boiling water for 60 seconds). And as always, Parmesan does not come in a shaker can, green or otherwise.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mash rosemary. In a small bowl, combine the rosemary, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Use the back of a spoon to mash and crush the rosemary to release its flavor. Keep mashing it right into the salt, which will work like little knives to cut and tear into the leaves.
Toss bread cubes. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat. Try to make sure that all the cubes have soaked up a bit of oil.
Bake. Place the cubes on a small baking dish and bake until crunchy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and set aside the croutons.
Wash and stem kale. Kale is tough and the stems are tougher yet; you won’t enjoy chewing your salad like a cow chews cud, so remove the center stem and rib. We just “whittle” the leaf from the stem using a sharp chef’s knife. It’s fast, and doesn’t leave much of the leaf behind, but, if you have a method that you’re more comfortable using, do it.
Chiffonade. Since kale is tough to chew, we want to shred it very finely. The easiest way is to stack several leaves (4 to 7), roll them up tightly like a cigar, and slice the leaves thinly. They’ll unroll into nice thin shreds. Once shredded, transfer to a bowl.
Whisk. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, Worcestershire sauce, capers, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, kosher salt, and rosemary until it’s well blended. Really well blended.
Whisk more. Here’s the tricky part: while whisking frenetically, slowly pour the oil into the egg mixture. If you pour too fast, you won’t form an emulsion, but, instead, you’ll have an oil slick that stays on top of the egg mixture. It’ll taste okay, but not as good as if you were able to get the oil and egg to mix. It takes practice and is an essential skill for cooking, so, if it doesn’t work this time, add the oil more slowly next time.
Toss salad. Add the dressing to the kale shreds and toss to coat. Toss again. Then add the cheese and toss a third time.
Rest. We want the dressing to soften up the kale just a bit, so we’re going to leave it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. No longer, at least not without refrigeration. While it stands, stir and toss the kale to re-coat every few minutes.
Serve. Divide the salad into bowls, and top with croutons and additional Parmesan cheese.
We’ll say it right up front: this is not as good as Caesar salad made with romaine lettuce, but it’s a pretty good way to eat kale. Shredding the kale into fine strips is essential to making this kale salad enjoyable; otherwise, it might feel as though you’re chewing your cud. And we liked changing out the garlic with rosemary. The rosemary had enough flavor that it stood out over the taste of kale, but it didn’t overwhelm. Plus, we avoided having garlic breath all day. Overall, we think this is probably worth four stars, as we wouldn’t buy kale just to make this salad, but we’d try it again if kale showed up in our CSA share.