Tuscan Kale Salad
I know what you’re thinking: ugh, another raw kale salad? That’s so 2012; I’ll just skip over this post and no one will be the wiser.
But don’t skip this post! I swear this is the best way to eat raw kale, and I bet 99% of you would thoroughly enjoy this salad. A bold claim, I know.
This is my new favorite winter salad. I think I’ve made it about seven times in the past few weeks.
After all the Christmas-y cookies and quick breads, and after all the nights it’s been too chilly to find cold salads appealing—and we’ve gone the noodles/rice/soup + bread route instead—it just feels right to return to fresh greens! (Even if we’re still enjoying those greens as a side dish to our breadier entrees.)
Maybe that’s a January cliché, but I don’t care; it’s true that it’s still too dark and cold in the evenings to be satisfied—or even tempted—by a salad, but this is a salad that can be assembled in advance and packed up for lunch the next day, unlike its counterparts with wimpier lettuce leaves. And I’m always up for a salad around lunchtime, even if my exhausted evening self would rather turn to something more comforting or convenient.
This recipe is inspired by a salad I’ve gotten to eat a few times now at a wonderful restaurant called Big Sky Cafe, up the coast a little in San Luis Obispo, California.
On my first visit there, the promise of an accompanying Tuscan kale salad helped convince me to order the lobster mac & cheese—not that I’d ever need much convincing to order something like lobster OR mac & cheese, let alone LOBSTER MAC & CHEESE; maybe I somehow felt that such a decadent meal would be nicely balanced out by the kale salad… little did I know this kale salad would turn out to be quite a temptation of its own.
The dish was delicious and perfect, except for one thing: the giant diner-sized plate of about three servings-worth of mac & cheese was accompanied by about three BITES of kale salad! I’m not kidding—I wish I had a photo to share with you; it was one of the most ridiculous ratios of food I’ve ever seen on one plate.
I know you’d think anyone who would order lobster mac & cheese would not be complaining about the ratio unless the salad was crowding out the pasta, but I could not get enough of that salad.
It’s what’s brought me back to Big Sky Cafe on every subsequent visit to San Luis Obispo (where Paula and I now know to order an entire Tuscan kale salad, which comes in a much more reasonably sized portion, to share).
This recipe is as near an imitation of the restaurant’s as I could come up with, although I skipped adding bread crumbs; I don’t think it needs it.
I’ve dabbled in “massaged” kale salads before, where you really need to take the time to massage the olive oil into the kale. The genius of this salad is that it’s nearly all in how you slice it: taking the time to cut the kale into thin ribbons means the leaves get partially broken down just from slicing them so finely, so you barely need to massage the kale at all to make it palatable.
This shredded kale technique takes the massage time from up to 10 minutes down to 30 seconds. (As good as olive oil probably is for your skin, it’s still not that fun to be wrist-deep in kale and with oily fingers.)
As far as I’m concerned, this cuts down the prep time in the perfect way, since I don’t mind the almost meditative chopping and slicing. I find the “massaging” step more annoying because I have to wash my hands right after, and I am such a frequent hand-washer in the kitchen that my hands always end up dry after I’ve been cooking a lot. (I must not be giving enough long olive oil massages to kale leaves…)
The citrus-laced kale is appealingly fresh and tangy, and makes for an incredibly versatile base for whatever sort of additional ingredients you see fit to toss in (I’ve given some suggestions below).
I also love that it keeps in the fridge for a few days, making it the perfect make-ahead salad—dressing and all! Who knew such a thing existed?!—to bring to parties or potlucks.
Paula and I love the touristy/beachy Central Coast area of Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, and Pismo Beach; we’ve passed through it several times and gone there twice for little weekend getaways. Big Sky Cafe is always on our destination list. The three little cities are only 90 minutes north of Santa Barbara, but we don’t make it up there often enough, since my car’s so unreliable.
At least we no longer need to rent a car just to enjoy our own Tuscan kale salad!
Print this recipe. (PDF)
Tuscan Kale Salad
(Inspired by Big Sky Cafe in San Luis Obispo, CA.)
Active and Total time: 15-20 minutes
~ 1 bunch Tuscan / lacinato / dinosaur kale
~ 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
~ 1-2 Tbsp. fresh lemon or lime juice
~ 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
~ sea salt and black pepper, to taste
~ 2-3 Tbsp. sundried tomatoes, diced
~ 1/4 cup pine nuts
~ freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste
~ other ingredients, like chopped walnuts, halved grapes or cherry tomatoes, avocado, goat cheese or feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, etc.
How to make it:
1. Rinse the kale leaves well, then pat them dry, a few at a time, using a clean dish towel. Fold each leaf in half, then use a sharp knife to cut out the thick part of the stem from the back of the leaf. Once you’ve de-stemmed about a third of the leaves, stack them and roll them tightly together, then—starting with the tops of the leaves—slice the roll of leaves crosswise into very thin ribbons. Toss the ribbons into a medium bowl, and repeat with the remaining kale leaves.
2. Add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to the bowl of kale ribbons, and use your hands to massage it into the kale for about 30 seconds. Add up to another tablespoon of olive oil, if desired.
3. Drizzle the salad with the lemon juice and vinegar, using spoons to mix it all together, and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss in desired ingredients, such as diced sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, and parmesan, then stir them into the salad. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to several days, then bring to room temperature to serve. It’s best on the first day or two.
Print this recipe! (PDF)
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|Citrusy Kale and Avocado Salad||Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and Radishes||Fig Walnut Balsamic Vinaigrette||Tabbouleh (Bulgar Salad with Parsley and Mint)|