Friday, September 30, 2011

Kale Salad

After making this kale salad, I know that it is going to become a regular part of our weeknight and weekend meals, and after you try it I'm pretty sure that you'll start rethinking your regular lettuce salads as well. I got the inspiration for it from an event we recently attended at Scribe Winery, where we're wine club members. If you happen to visit Sonoma, I would highly recommend it - they not only make amazing wine (chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet, and syrah) but they have also managed to create a winery experience unlike many other places we have been to. Tastings are served at picnic tables looking out over the valley with wildflowers from their garden (they operate an organic garden on site and have chickens and pigs) and they bring out complimentary cheese, salami, and crackers with each tasting. They have perfected the sort of laid-back chic look and mentality - you can feel free to hang out after your tasting, bring a picnic, or explore the grounds. The winery also throws periodic parties for wine club members and it was at one of these events when we had the kale salad, which was fresh from their garden. They also roasted 2 pigs that were raised on the property and served fingerling potato salad, roasted peppers from their garden, baked white beans over the fire with herbs and tomatoes, and of course poured their wine freely. I've included some pictures from the event below.

Back to the kale salad - we actually eat a lot of kale, but I usually always cook it - whether it's a quick braise over the stovetop with garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper, an added ingredient to soups, or even part of a stir fry. I've had kale salad before and excluding the version at Scribe, I always thought of it as a little too bitter and raw tasting. The secret is lettuce the dressing sit on the kale for a little bit of time before serving, much different from lettuce salads where you want to dress it at the last minute. Dressing the kale early allows it to soften a little bit and absorb the flavor of the dressing. I also love it because you can make it ahead of time if you're having company, or before you start making the other components of your dinner on a weeknight, and then just let it be until you're ready to serve. I'd recommend letting it sit for at least 30 minutes or so before serving. I made it before a dinner party and let it sit for about 3 hours, although I don't know that I'd do it overnight. Lacinato (or dino) kale is best in this recipe vs. the regular curly kind, although either would probably be good.

Kale Salad
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes (plus time to sit)

2 bunches lacinato kale, rinsed, leaves ripped from stems, and cut into thin strips
1/2 c. freshly grated pecorino or parmesan cheese

1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 T. fresh lemon juice 
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. dijon mustard
1/2 t. kosher salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the kale and grate the cheese. Combine all of the dressing ingredients and whisk together, then combine in a large bowl with the kale and cheese. Let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours before serving.

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