This Caesar-Style Salad Is Perfect for Fall and Winter
Kale tastes better after it’s been exposed to frost — which is why we see so much of it in our markets starting in October and extending into winter. Its peak flavor and growing season arrive just when other locally grown greens become scarce.
Though kale is typically cooked, it can also make a terrific raw salad. The trick is to finely chop or “shave” the fresh kale.
Because kale has big, bold flavor, you need to use a dressing that is equally rambunctious. What could be better than a riff on the classic Caesar dressing? Here I use extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice to mellow sharp Dijon mustard and pungent anchovies. This combo creates a dressing that, when tossed with kale, creates a lively flavor combo that dances on your tongue. Add some sharp cheese and you’ll be blissed out, guaranteed.
This salad is easy to make. And it’s equally at home served with soup and bread, or as the first course of an elegant meal. With fall and winter entertaining season here, this is a timely dish you’ll soon learn to love.
Recipe: Chopped Kale Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing
I was inspired to create this recipe after eating Shaved Kale Salad at the newly opened Pastaria Restaurant in St. Louis. This salad was new to me, but I was aware that chopped kale was getting trendy. There’s a recipe for a similar salad in the July 2011 issue of Bon Appétit magazine, for example. My salad is adapted from that recipe and from my memory of the one at Pastaria.
The flavor profile of this salad is similar to Caesar, though this dish differs in several ways — there’s no raw egg, for one thing. But a Caesar-friendly dressing still works well.
Making Chopped Kale Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing is quick and easy. You just cream some garlic, anchovies, and mustard together with lemon juice, beat in extra virgin olive oil, and toss with chopped kale and Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese. Then serve, preferably topped with Homemade Croutons. Nothing could be easier.
This recipe serves 4 and takes about 15 minutes to prepare. You can make the salad dressing ahead of time (it will keep in the refrigerator for about a day). In the Procedure, I detail the method for making this dressing in the blender, but you can also make it by hand (see details in the Notes).
- ~1 pound fresh kale, stemmed and finely chopped (a big bunch; about 8 cups)
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
- 2-ounce can of anchovy fillets packed in olive oil, drained (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (you can add a bit more if you want a mustard-forward flavor)
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 ounce freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup; or to taste)
- a good handful of Homemade Croutons as a garnish (optional)
- Wash the kale and dry well. Remove center stems (just pull them out as you would when cleaning spinach). Chop kale finely. The easiest way to do this is to take several leaves, roll them together lengthwise, then mince. You may want to turn your chopping board 90 degrees and mince again. See Notes for more discussion.
- Peel the garlic, smash it flat with a knife, and mince finely. Add minced garlic to blender (I pre-mince because I find that blenders often don’t mince garlic finely enough on their own).
- Remove anchovies from can, drain, and add to blender.
- Add Dijon mustard to blender.
- Juice the lemons, and add the juice to blender.
- Whirl the blender until you’ve formed a smooth puree. With the blender running, slowly drizzle the oil in — you want a fine stream. At the beginning (until an emulsion begins to form), you may even want to add it by drops. See Notes.
- When the dressing is made, taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. At this point, you can store the dressing in an airtight container for several hours or overnight. If you do so, make sure to vigorously shake the container (to re-establish the emulsion) before proceeding with the next step.
- Add chopped kale to a large bowl, and pour in the dressing. Toss well.
- Add about half the grated cheese and toss briefly (~15 seconds) to incorporate.
- Plate the salad, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the plates (or pass it around at table so diners can add as much as they want), and garnish with optional croutons. Serve.
- If you prefer to make the dressing by hand, here’s how to do so: Finely mince the garlic and anchovies together into a paste (a mortar and pestle works well for this). Add the mustard and lemon juice and whisk well to combine. Then add the oil drop by drop, whisking all the while. As an emulsion forms, you can add the oil a bit more quickly. Then season, and proceed.
- When making the dressing either in the blender or by hand, it’s important to add the oil slowly at first. If you add too much at once, you may have trouble forming the emulsion. Although the presence of mustard makes this less likely (mustard really helps form an emulsion, in addition to providing a pleasant flavor), it can still happen.
- Even people who don’t like anchovies tend to like this dressing. It doesn’t taste “fishy,” just pleasantly tangy.
- A bit of cayenne pepper adds some pleasant zing to the dressing.
- You want to chop the kale finely because it’s more pleasant to eat than if you leave the pieces large. But you don’t have to be fanatical about reducing it to a mince! You’re looking for pieces perhaps ¼ inch wide (or a bit less) and up to an inch (or so) long. But whatever size you fancy will likely taste good.
- As far as I can tell, people use the terms “chopped” and “shaved” interchangeably for finely chopped kale.
- I like the sharp taste of Pecorino Romano in this salad, but Parmesan works too (it has a creamier taste).
- In addition to resembling Caesar Salad, this dish shares some similarities with Spinach Salad with Parmesan, which we did last year.
Fall Is the Start of Entertaining Season
Though we entertain year round, our social calendar always seems to get a bit fuller in the autumn. The cool, crisp weather we’re having in the Northern Hemisphere is sharpening our appetites, so we crave heartier dishes — dishes that are perfect for sharing with friends and family. So this week and the next two on Kitchen Riffs, we’ll be talking about some company-appropriate dishes. This salad would make a perfect starter for any meal, fancy or not.
Later this week, we’ll discuss Boeuf Bourguignon, a/k/a Beef Burgundy. It’s a relatively simple dish, but one that does take some time and attention to prepare, so it’s perfect for serving to company.
Next week? We’ll discuss Roast Potatoes first. They’re wonderful for a weekday meal, but they also put a smile on the face of any guest lucky enough to be served them. We’ll finish the week with Roast Chicken — another relatively simple dish, but one that’s not served so much these days (supermarket rotisserie chickens don’t count). It makes fine company fare. Plus, roasting a chicken is good practice for the turkey roasting many of us will be doing late in November!
And of course no meal is complete without great bread and a scrumptious dessert. So they're on the menu for the following week. The bread is flavorful and incredibly easy to make, and the dessert — a grape tart — is one that has brought cheers to the lips of everyone who has tasted it.
So relax and enjoy your Chopped Kale Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing, and contemplate the feast to come.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Spinach Salad with Parmesanbr /> Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing
Creamy Cole Slaw
Potato Salad Basics
Edamame and Bean Salad
Hungarian Cucumber Salad
Pineapple, Coconut, and Carrot Salad