Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the best kale salad

i thought about just calling this The Best Salad. it is certainly close to the top, and in terms of simplicity and deliciousness it's really quite the little contender.

it contains only 5 ingredients (plus salt and pepper, but those are really just a given. i don't think they count as ingredients. but if you disagree, then this salad has but 7 ingredients. that's still pretty simple.). it is so healthy, you will feel your muscles growing as you eat it, a la popeye. however, it is also super delicious.

this is the kale you need. it is somewhat sly and into subterfuge, so it goes by many names: lacinato kale, tuscan cabbage, tuscan kale, dinosaur kale, black cabbage, cavolo nero... actually, i guess those last two are the same name in different languages. still, depending on the pretentiousness of the store at which you shop, you may see it called any of these. it seems like it's more tender than the curly kale one normally sees, and it may be slightly harder to find, but i've seen it in many different grocery stores, so i think it's not that hard to get hold of. you could maybe make this with regular kale, but i don't know if it would be as good.

once the kale is washed, take the stems out. there is a video for this! it is way easy.

then pile all of the leaves together, holding them in a tight bunch so they're easier to slice. then cut them with a sharp knife so you can get them really thin, the thinner the better. this will ensure that they won't be too tough, since you're not going to be cooking them.

once you've sliced up the kale, you're practically done. this is where the other 4 - 6 ingredients come into play. the one that might cause you the most trouble is the cheese - ricotta salata. it's ricotta that's been dried and salted and pressed and it is really nothing like those tubs of ricotta one uses for lasagna, etc. it's not as hard as parmesan, but you can grate it.

i was going to say that one could perhaps use feta instead, but i really think it's worthwhile to find the real stuff. i haven't had this salad with another cheese and i don't want to. the cheese kind of makes the whole thing. i have seen it here in portland at new seasons, and in austin at central market, and i'm sure places like whole foods would have it. also apparently you can get it online.

the other ingredients are shallot, lemon, and olive oil. you definitely want the juice from the whole lemon. sometimes i grate some of the lemon zest in as well, sometimes not. follow your bliss. if you are using zest, it is roughly a million times easier to zest the lemon before you juice it, fyi.

the amount of shallot you use is somewhat to taste. i usually use about 2 tablespoons or so of finely minced shallot per bunch of kale. the oil's like that too - usually i mix the shallot, lemon juice and kale together, add a tablespoon or three of oil, taste it, and put in more oil if it seems like it needs it. it depends on how big your bunch of kale is, how much juice is in the lemon, and how oily you like things to be.

finally, add the grated ricotta salata. i usually grate it on the largest-holed side of the grater, but you could also just cut it into small chunks or even use your hands to break it up over the salad. once you mix it, it will fall apart a little more, too, so it gets all nicely mixed in. then add salt and pepper to taste. ricotta salata is pretty salty itself, so that's why i wait on the salt until after adding the cheese.

as with so many chopped salad-type things, this is best if you make it ahead of time and let it sit for a couple of hours. this allows the flavors to come together more and i think the lemon juice makes the kale tenderize a little. science!

even if you think you don't like kale, you might like this. i keep seeing other things one can make with lacinato (etc) kale, but i never make them because whenever i buy it, all i want to do is eat this salad.

1 bunch lacinato kale
2 tablespoons-ish minced shallot
1 lemon - juiced
1-3+ tablespoons good olive oil
3-4 ounces ricotta salata


  1. I made this using exactly your recipe, but then I "massaged" the salad, per the instructions on another kale salad recipe on Food Network. Rubbing all the ingredients between the palms of your hands for two minutes helps the flavors to meld and the texture to change a bit. Loved the ricotta salat a...thanks for introducing me to this cheese. Michelle T.

  2. i think the massaging in the dressing idea is great! it should make it more tender, i would think. especially at this time of year, the kale is a little tough. in winter, it seems much more tender. ricotta salata is awfully good - it's one of my favorites.