My apologies for obsessing over the Gjelina cookbook, but when I find a recipe that I leeerve, I have to share it with you. The buzz lately about kale is that it’s all washed up, passé, a has-been, a Norma Desmond, and now the it-superfood is All About Seaweed. Cool or not, we love that kale has found a permanent, even if not a prominent, place in our diets.
In this recipe, kale is more a supporting actor, served alongside crunchy radishes, sweet fennel, garlic crouton crumbs, and ricotta salata- (cheese!) – best ensemble according to the salad actors guild of my table.
You know how restaurants have the best kale salads and then you try to replicate one at home and you think, I’m overly aware of the kale in this kale salad – in a rabbit food, so-green kind of way? The genius behind the recipe is that kale is present, but brilliantly paired with the just the right flavors and textures. The result is a luscious, reliable, satisfying salad that’s good enough for guests and easy enough for dinner tonight.
Ricotta salata, the name of my next pet, is a dryer, saltier version of ricotta cheese, which is a sheep’s milk-based cheese used in lasagnas and pastas and probably found in the fancy cheese bin at your grocer. Ricotta salata reminds me more of feta cheese than ricotta, offering a fresher, clean cheese to add to salads. The flavor is somewhat salty, somewhat nuttier and of course, cheesy. Unlike feta, it’s tighter and easier to shave, and unlike parmesan, it’s creamy, which makes ricotta salata the perfect cheese to add to salads because you don’t need much to get good flavor.
The other major flavor force in this salad is garlic crouton crumbs. By rolling out croutons to a crumb consistency, the flavor and texture are more complimentary to the salad. Rather than wrestling with big chunks of hard bread that interrupt the salad bite, crouton crumbs disperse throughout and even help breakdown the fibrous consistency of kale.
A very un-crunchtime issue with the Gjelina cookbook is that an ingredient within a recipe can be a whole new recipe. Remember roasted cauliflowerwhich listed garlic confit as an ingredient? In this recipe, garlic croutons are listed as the ingredient and recipe for garlic croutons includes another recipe ingredient – garlic confit. I have simpler methods below. If you have the time, these condiments are worth it. Because of the book, I’ve been making my own stocks and am on my second batch of the garlic confit. These supporting recipes are solid and completely elevate the main food, but they take time.
not another kale salad
In this recipe, the garlic croutons, listed in the main recipe, is a whole other recipe. I provide details below, but also suggest using store-bought croutons and even breadcrumbs to speed things up. If you have a mandoline or a thin slicing attachment to a food processor, use it to quickly trim the fennel and radishes.
preptime: 20 min serves 4-6
- 1 Tbsp + 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 bunches Tuscan (lacinto) kale, stemmed and sliced into ribbons
- kosher salt (coarse salt will better breakdown kale fibers)
- 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar, more as needed
- 1.5 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
- 6 radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced or shaved with a vegetable peeler
- 1 large handful of Garlic Croutons (below)
- 2 oz ricotta salata cheese
- freshly ground pepper
- In a large bowl, drizzle the olive oil over the kale and sprinkle with salt.
- Massage the leaves until softened and tender, squeezing them firmly with you hands to break down the cell walls, making the greens softer and more receptive to the dressing.
- Add the vinegar and lemon juice and continue to massage the kale. Add more vinegar, lemon juice, or salt if necessary, and make sure there is enough rich, velvety olive oil coating the leaves.
- Add the sliced radishes and shaved fennel.
- Place the croutons in a small ziploc bag or onto a work surface and, using a rolling pin or the bottom of a chef’s knife, crush into coarse crumbs.
- With a vegetable peeler, shave the ricotta salata into the bowl. Toss gently to combine. Add the crouton crumbs and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates and serve. This salad holds up well for several hours, but should be eaten day it is made (I’ve let it go overnight and still good)
preptime: 15 minutes
- 3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or garlic confit oil)
- 1 small garlic clove, cut into 4 pieces
- 4 thick slices day-old sourdough bread (or any you have on hand and can be fresh), torn into quarter size pieces
- kosher salt
- freshly ground pepper
- In a medium frying pan, heat the oil over low heat with the garlic pieces (note: if you’re using garlic confit you can skip this step. Heat for about 5-10 minutes, stirring, to let the garlic penetrate the oil. Remove the garlic.
- Turn the heat to medium. When the oil is hot, add the bread pieces, making sure not to crowd the pan.
- Cook, turning occasionally and adding another 1 Tbsp oil if needed, until the croutons are crisp on the surface but still slightly soft in the center, about 7 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and let cool.
- Use 1/2 cup breadcrumbs instead of bread, but watch that they only toast lightly and do not burn.
- Use store-bought croutons
recipe adapted from Gjelina cookbook and provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com