I am the type of person that when I find something I like, I stick with it for a while. Those Wrangler jeans I wear? Been ordering the same pair online for five years. Teddy bear from when I was a child? Yup, sitting up on my bed at my apartment in Brooklyn, weather-worn and bald from years of being propped up in the grass at my al-fresco childhood tea parties and being snuggled with in bed for 26 or so years. And no, I am not afraid to admit it. So it goes without saying that when I find a great recipe I stick with it. The newest recipe that I am obsessed with is this kale salad with lemon dressing and parmesan cheese, courtesy of Dr. Andrew Weil.
I would like to take this opportunity to tell you how far I have come with kale in the last 15 or so years. Until I was about 20, kale to me were “the green leaves” my mother made me line the serving platters with at her catering events and dinner parties. I don’t even think I knew kale was called kale and I certainly didn’t know it was edible. I can’t remember the first time I ate it but I remember thinking, “This isn’t so bad. How did I not know about this?”. I would tell the Mother that I had tried kale this way or that way, that is tasted like a heartier spinach and it was delicious, and she would turn her nose up to it. She just could not get past whatever blockage it was that was keeping her from trying and loving kale. So I went on trying kale in new and different ways until one day when I was visiting the Mother in Phoenix last year she insisted we go to Dr. Andrew Weil’s new restaurant, True Foods, for his Kale Salad. Excuse me? You want me to go where? And eat what? After years of my cajoling and prodding and deceptively slipping a little bit into soup with the spinach, Dr. Weil gets you to try kale? Dr. Weil – 1, Chocolate and Chiles – 0.
Dr. Weil, the Tucson-based health guru, curates a menu at True Foods inspired by local ingredients and a light, healthy way of eating with an emphasis on sustainability both in the ingredients and preparation down to the earthly, comfortable decor. Trust me – I would eat out much healthier if I had Dr. Weil’s True Foods to take friends to on a regular basis. (Alas, at the moment there are only 3 locations – one in Phoenix and two in California). The kale salad is a triumph. Before that moment I would have never thought that you could eat kale raw. And I don’t know if I would call this raw necessarily. Kale needs some sort of “processing” if you will to break down the tough-ness. The answer that Weil comes up with in this salad is tossing it with a lemon dressing – the acid in the citrus juice breaks down the kale just enough between tossing and plating to put it more in the category of a very robust, fresh head of red-leaf lettuce. Think of this process like ceviche, the acid in the citrus “cooking” the kale lightly. To round out the salad he adds a dusting of pecorino cheese that mixes with the dressing to become this creamy-tangy triumph of a sauce that lines the side of the bowl and waits patiently for a piece of crusty baguette or whole wheat pita to come wipe it up. And trust me, the Mother and I ate every last bite so feverishly that the waiter came back and asked if we needed another portion. Did I mention I was talking about kale? Not chocolate, truffles, or ooey gooey mac’n’cheese. Kale, people! Licked the plate clean. We’ve come a long way since catering…
This is definitely a staple in my kitchen, especially savored in the winter as one of the few hints of summer freshness in the cold, bitter months but certainly not limited to when other vegetables don’t grow. So if you are ever in Arizona or California check out True Foods. And if you are in the other 48 states (or world beyond) make this salad. It will not disappoint. Enjoy!
PS. This was dessert – they were 3 for $5 at my grocery store!! How could I resist? Will tide me over until the unforgettable ones from the Green Market come into play in the summer.
Dr. Weil’s Tuscan Kale Salad
Adapted from True Foods menu, Serves 4-6
4-6 cups kale, loosely packed, sliced leaves of Italian black (Lacinato, “dinosaur,” cavolo nero) midribs removed
juice of 1 lemon
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, mashed
salt & pepper, to taste
hot red pepper flakes, to taste
2/3 cup grated Asiago, Parmesan or Pecorino
1/2 cup freshly made bread crumbs from lightly toasted bread (see recipe below)
Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a generous pinch (or more to taste) of hot red pepper flakes. Pour over kale in serving bowl and toss well. Add 2/3 of the cheese and toss again. Let kale sit for at least 5 minutes. Add bread crumbs, toss again, and top with remaining cheese. Serve and enjoy.
Fresh Bread Crumbs:
Pulse 2 pieces of stale, sliced sandwich bread or a four-inch piece of day-old baguette in a food processor until mealy – about 10 pulses. Toast over medium high heat in a saute pan for 3-5 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to plate to cool.