My favorite way to eat kale is not new or trendy – I like it cooked tender and until it’s no longer bright green. But on a hot day or for company or a potluck, kale Caesar is refreshing and a little fancy.
Kale salad is trendy right now, and kale Caesar, specifically, is very Vermont chic.
Raw kale is a nice alternative or addition to lettuce in a salad – especially if you already have kale and don’t want to buy lettuce or salad greens. Plus, making croutons for Caesar salad is a good way to use up stale bread.
For eating raw in salads, choose fresh kale with smaller leaves. The flavor tends to get stronger as the leaves mature on the plant or in your fridge. Have a lot of older kale sitting around? Rip off a piece and see what it tastes like. A braise with plenty of salt, garlic, bacon fat, and a splash of leftover wine might be a better choice than a salad.
To prepare kale for any salad, pull the stems off and break leaves into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle them with a little salt and oil and squeeze them with your fists until the leaves get wilted and soft. People call this “massaging” the kale but I think that sounds weird. Add dressing and other ingredients and serve!
Here, we’re going to make Caesar salad with dressing and croutons from scratch. If you prefer, you can always use store bought croutons and/or Caesar dressing, but don’t be put off by the fairly straightforward process of making your own. You’ll build kitchen skills and have a better end product.
–Bethany Fleishman, Vital Communities’ Transportation Program Assistant and former pastry chef, is contributing recipes this summer for our Valley Food & Farm program.
Photo credits: Julia A. Reed
Kale Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons
Recipes adapted from Tyler Florence and from Natasha’s Kitchen
1-2 bunches green or lacinato/dinosaur kale
freshly grated Parmesan, or any hard sharp cheese from a local farm
2 cups of stale bread, cubed or torn into chunks, crusts left on
2 T unsalted butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, smashed or minced
1 T fresh thyme, finely chopped, or 1 t dried thyme
1/4 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
4 anchovy fillets or 2 t anchovy paste
1 clove garlic, smashed or minced
1 lemon, very well squeezed
1 yolk from a fresh local egg (save the white in the freezer to add to scrambled eggs or to make cakes or meringues)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (or any hard sharp cheese from a local farm)
freshly ground black pepper
Make the croutons first:
1. In a small saucepan, heat the butter, olive oil, garlic cloves, thyme, and pepper over medium heat until butter is melted and bubbly. Set aside and let the flavors infuse into the oil. (Wash the kale and pat dry while you wait.)
2. Drizzle the butter/olive oil mixture evenly over the bread cubes and toss until they have an even coating of oil.
3. Spread the croutons in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 375˚F for 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown and crunchy. Set aside to let cool.
Make the dressing next:
Blend the anchovies, garlic, egg yolk, and lemon juice for 30 seconds until the mixture is smooth (use an immersion blender in a tall mug or wide-mouth canning jar). With the blender running, pour the olive oil in slowly for the dressing to emulsify it. Stir in the Parmesan and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Season, to taste, with salt and set aside. Refrigerate the dressing if you will not be using it right away.
Assemble the salad:
Pull off the kale stems and break leaves into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle a little salt and olive oil/salad oil over the leaves and squeeze them with your fists until the kale gets
somewhat wilted and soft. Add enough dressing to coat the salad to your liking. Add the croutons and some extra Parmesan and toss the salad well.
Eat it now or eat it tomorrow. The kale holds up well with dressing and a night in the fridge, but leave off the croutons until serving.