raw kale salad with lemon and parmesan

Raw kale.  Doesn’t sound very appetizing, trust me, I know.  In fact, before this salad, kale had only ever crossed my lips cooked, or I should say, well-cooked.  Most vegetables I take al dente, but kale’s one I’ve always put firmly alongside collards as something that needs a little more than a quick sauté to make it, well, chewable. 

Shame.  On.  Me. 

Raw kale, especially dredged in parmesan and good olive oil, is simply delicious – crunchy and deeply flavored, it reminds me of broccoli, only leafier!  Moreover, this is a leafy salad green that’s in season this time of year.  Take a moment to let that sink in. 

Quite frankly, I can’t believe I’ve gone 27 winters without this salad.

The original recipe here is adapted from Heidi Swanson’s site 101 Cookbooks, always a source of healthy dinner inspiration.  But, news to me, it seems raw kale is popping up all over lately.  I was absent mindedly flipping through a Martha Stewart magazine in Rockport over the weekend and came across a recipe quite similar to this one. 

The salad here is straightforward.  A Cesar inspired dressing, minus the anchovy, clinging to torn kale leaves and topped with crunchy bread crumbs.  My first run, I was a little to generous with the lemon juice, which steered my salad away from bright and zesty and more towards puckering.  Use the dressing here as a guideline, and make sure to season to taste.  Best of all, this salad can sit fully dressed, minus the bread crumbs, for several hours with no ill-effect.  In fact, I think it gets better as it sits, making it a prime candidate for any make-ahead type occasion.  Serves 4 as a side. 

Adapted, barely, from 101 Cookbooks

For the Salad:

  • 1 large bunch kale – I used red kale, 101 Cookbooks used Tuscan; you want something that’s tender and tastes good raw, so not the curly kind
  • ½ clove garlic or 1 small clove
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Juice of half a lemon or to taste
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • A pinch of dried red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup homemade breadcrumbs or 2 slices rustic bread dried in the oven, torn into pieces, and pulsed in the food processor.

Prepare the Kale:

Wash and dry the kale.  I plunge it in a sink of cold water and spin it dry in my salad spinner.  Cut away the tough stems or pull them off by holding the kale leaves upside down and running your fingers down the length of the stem to remove the leaf.  Tear or chop the leaves into bite sized pieces and set aside in a large salad bowl.

Make the Dressing and Assemble the Salad:

Crush the garlic and a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle.  Transfer to a small bowl and add the cheese, lemon juice (start with about 1 tbsp), olive oil, and red pepper flakes.  Whisk well. 

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well.  Add a little freshly ground black pepper and taste for seasoning – you may want more lemon juice, salt, and/or cheese.  The salad can sit fully-dressed up to several hours; it really only gets better.  Add the bread crumbs just before you serve.