Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Guest Post By Leah - Raw Dino Kale Saad

There are some things in life that are just...great. Things like, a good gin & tonic. Italian Pizza. A kiss that makes you weak in the knees. Hearing your favorite song come on on the jukebox. Those are good things. Those are great things. Having your friend pick you up from work on your lunch hour so that she can recipe test on you...that qualifies as a great thing.

Enter Leah.

This Monday, she did just that. I'd driven home from Sacramento at 6:30 that morning. I could barely keep my eyes open at work, and was not so subtly trying to plan my escape, when Leah asked if I wanted to come over for lunch. I did. I am no fool.

And so she picked me up. And made me lunch. Made this salad, to be clear. I swooned over this salad. This salad was amazing. Had she not been looking, I would have gobbled the whole thing up in 5 seconds flat. I asked her to do a guest post for it, and she did just that. Enjoy!

Raw Dino Kale Salad - Guest Post by Leah

When Lily asked me if I was planning on watching the Oscars this year, I have to admit, I wasn’t that interested. But, then she pitched me the idea of making martinis and snacks and watching with a group of sensitive s**t-talkers. I was sold as soon as she said the word martini.

I love a martini.

Classic. With gin, of course.

I love the idea of it. I love trying to lift the awkward glass from the table to my mouth without loosing too much of the precious juice on the bar. I love the cold and crisp herby or citrus-y flavor. I love that it is uncomplicated. And I love that it comes with a snack. (ahhh, that emerald olive)

My dad introduced me to the best martini I have ever had about a year ago while I was with him on a business trip in Denver. The first night, we headed to his favorite restaurant in Denver, called Jax. We sat at the bar and ate red-curry muscles and drank martinis made from Cap Rock Gin. Cap Rock Gin is distilled at the Jack Rabbit Hill Biodynamic Farm in western Colorado's North Fork Gunnison Valley. It is made with apples, and so has a slightly sweet yet clean flavor. Oh, man, it is SO good!

And, I am digressing to the millionth degree. Martini’s make me do that.

So, the Oscars. We laughed, we cried. We discussed fashion, and the crazy white lady Kanye who stole Roger Ross Williams’s, (director of the best documentary short, Music by Prudence,) thunder. And we drank martinis. But, wouldn’t you know it, the real star of the show wasn’t the headliner, but the supporting actor. The raw kale salad I made as an after thought (we needed a vegetable dish to cut the richness of with our salumi and cheese-filled snack/dinner) stole my beloved martini’s spotlight.

I admit, I love this salad almost as much as I love a classic martini. It packs a punch of tangy-ness from the lemon juice and almost creamy-ness from the Parmesan. But the real treat is the raw kale. Dino kale is dark and bumpy, crunchy and satisfying, with a slightly sweet and herbaceous flavor, not completely unlike my favorite martini.

After a fall and winter of kale and leek pasta, braised kale, sautéed kale, and many, many other dishes of cooked kale, it was a pleasure to bring this back into the fold. I first read about this salad in the NY Times, and I have made it a few times over the years. It is always a winner It is the perfect accompaniment to just about anything, or it can stand out on it’s own, just like an Oscar dress or a martini.

Raw Dino Kale Salad
from the NY Times, October 2007

1 bunch Dino Kale (also called Tuscan or Lacinato Kale)
1/3 cup toasted, coarse breadcrumbs (from good white, sourdough, or Italian bread)
1-2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup grated cheese, preferably Pecorino Romano (or Ricotta Salata)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus some to garnish as needed
Fresh juice of one to 2 lemons (about ¼ cup)
1/8 – ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes (to taste)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim kale removing stems and discard. Slice kale leaves, including ribs, into very thin ribbons (1/8 inch or so). You should have 4-5 cups.

For the breadcrumbs, tear bread into little pieces or pulse stale bread in food processor. Toast bread in 350* oven for 7-12 minutes or until the crumbs are dry and just browned. Let cool completely.

With a mortar and pestle or the side of a knife, pound garlic into a paste with the salt. Place in a small bowl with the cheese, oil, lemon juice, pepper flakes and black pepper, and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Alternately, place garlic, cheese, oil, lemon juice, pepper flakes and salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it is all incorporated and the garlic is finely minced.

Put kale in large bowl, pour the dressing over and toss thoroughly (dressing is a little bit thick because of the cheese and so needs lots of mixing to get all the kale covered. Using hands for this is a good method).

Let the salad sit for a minute, mix in and top with cooled breadcrumbs, and more cheese if you want.

If you are holding the salad for a while, and it will keep very nicely for a few days in the fridge, add more bread crumbs when you serve it or they will get very soggy (which, I personally love)

Yield: four side-dish servings

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