Let us take a moment to consider Kale. That humble, sweet green with the bitter bite that has the texture of an innertube when not prepared correctly. You can’t swing a salad spinner around Los Angeles these days without hitting a restaurant with a Kale Salad on the menu. I am ever hopeful, but alas, have been burned many times by the sub-par kale salad.
Until I encountered the amazing version at Food Lab in Silverlake. I had read about it on Yelp!, Twitter, Facebook, everywhere, and when I met a friend there for lunch a couple weeks ago, I knew I had to have it. Studded with almonds, shallots, brussels sprouts and romano cheese, this salad is my new obsession.
I think my hacked recipe comes pretty close to the original, and it has become a staple in my kitchen as the spring turns into summer here in LA. I make up a big batch of it on Sunday afternoon and then nosh on it for the rest of the week.
The key to a great kale salad is lots of acid in the vinaigrette, then let the leaves sit in the dressing for at least an hour before serving. The acid in the dressing will soften and sweeten the leaves, transforming the rubbery texture into a lightly crunchy cousin to Butter Lettuce.
To store the salad, I keep the cheese and almonds separate then top the salad with them when I am ready to serve. I like find the salad is just as good without the cheese, as well.
Food Lab inspired Kale Salad
1 bunch curly kale (about 6 cups when torn)
6-8 large brussels sprouts (about 3 cups when shredded)
1 medium shallot
6 oz blanched slivered almonds (toasted)
1 cup pecorino romano cheese, finely grated
Wash and thoroughly dry your kale and Brussels sprouts. Remove the woody stems and tough outer leaves of the sprouts. Slice the sprouts very finely (if I am feeling fancy, I use a mandoline for this), and place in a large bowl. Seriously a larger bowl than you think you will need. The largest bowl you have, the greens expand like the Biblical Loaves and Fishes when you start tearing them up.
Finely slice the shallot and add to the bowl with the sprouts.
Tear the kale away from the tough stems and tear or slice the leaves into 1/2 inch pieces. I like the rustic look of tearing the leaves and I find that the leaves retain their shape and crispness longer when they are torn rather than sliced, but slicing is definitely faster, so it’s up to you.
Add kale to bowl and stir to combine with shallots and Brussels sprouts.
Dress with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette (below). Cover and refrigerate for an hour. Add almonds and cheese just before serving.
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard (dijon mustard works as well, too)
1/3 cup olive oil
Whisk together honey, lemon juice, and mustard. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly to combine. Salt and pepper to taste (I typically use about 1.5 tsp of fresh ground pepper and 1 tsp coarse sea salt)