A personal chef, Alyssa, recently made this salad for a party. Raw kale salads were new to all of us and many of us went back for seconds. Two factors account for its amazing flavor—salting the kale “cooks” it a bit, softening both its texture and taste. And using a good, aged balsamic vinegar makes a standout dressing. Its sweet/tart flavors play against the slight bitterness of the kale. This is a beautiful salad: the kale turns a glistening dark green color. Since all the elements can be prepared ahead of time and just tossed together for serving, it’s a great dish for entertaining and pot lucks.
Serves 6 to 8
- 1 large bunch (about 1 pound) dinosaur kale
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 ounce (28 grams, about 2 tablespoons) aged balsamic vinegar
- 2 ounces (56 grams, about 1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
- About 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
- 2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) walnuts, toasted
- 1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) dried cranberries
- Strip the leaves from the tough stems and save fthe stems for another use or discard. Wash and spin dry the leaves. Then fold the leaves in half, stack several together, and cut crosswise into a thin chiffonade. Repeat until you’ve done all the kale.
- Pile the kale in a salad bowl and sprinkle over 1/4 teaspoon salt. Massage the salt into the leaves until the kale begins to feel moist and darken a bit, about 2 or 3 minutes. You can do this well ahead of time, cover the salad with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature several hours.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and vinegar. Grind in some pepper and then whisk in the oil. Taste for balance and add as much lemon juice, salt, and pepper as needed to create a vibrant, fresh, sweet/tart balance. Go easy on the salt to account for the salt already on the kale.
- When ready to serve, toss the greens with the dressing. Use your hands to roughly crush the nuts over the salad, add the cranberries, and toss again. Serve immediately.
Aged balsamics have a more complex flavor and a richer, thicker texture than their younger, less expensive cousins.
Add the nuts only just before serving so they stay as crisp as possible.
Add a diced shallot and a little walnut oil to the vinaigrette and sprinkle the finished salad with crumbled feta or goat cheese.
Give the salad an Italian flavor by adding garlic to the dressing and olives and pine nuts to the salad, omitting the cranberries and walnuts.
Any spinach recipe could easily be adapted to the kale from a warm bacon vinaigrette and diced apples to a blue cheese dressing with diced pears and pecans.
When company comes: Candy the walnuts to add another level of flavor.