Are you planning a Thanksgiving menu? This week we'll be suggesting a few of the feast-worthy garden-to-table recipes from the past year:
It's not exactly news-worthy that I'm a 20-something gardeny-type from Brooklyn who loves kale. But let's forgive the cliché and sail over to the important part of the story: kale is delicious. Especially when it's raw. While Kristen Beddard has been pounding the pavement crusading for kale in Paris, we've been binging on it in Brooklyn. It's hard to find a restaurant in this borough without a kale salad on the menu. And in my tiny apartment kitchen, raw kale salads figure into the dinner lineup at least once weekly.
But beyond being ridiculously delicious, kale salads are also delightfully portable. As far as fall picnic fare goes, I don't think you can do better. Where regular old lettuce would wilt into a slimy mess, kale positively shines given a bit of time to marinate.
Photographs by Erin Boyle.
In a season where sitting on a wool picnic blanket is actually tolerable, consider this an entreaty to pack a picnic and enjoy some quality autumnal outdoors time. To help you along, a recipe for my favorite salad du jour and some tips for becoming a kale enthusiast (Are you reading this, mes amis?):
Above: Of all the varieties, I prefer tuscan kale—also known as dinosaur or lacinato—most. Its rich dark leaves exude healthfulness without being off-putting. Promis.
Above: Before I wash my kale, I strip the leaves off the sturdy center ribs. I suggest using your hands for this step. With a semi-tight grip on the bottom of the rib, you can run your hands down the length of the rib and take the flesh leaves off easily. Once I've stripped the leaves from the ribs, I layer them in a stack and then roll them up to make cutting the leaves into thin ribbons more easy.
Above: The key to proper raw kale enjoyment is a good massage. No, not for you, for the kale. First, give the chopped leaves a bath in cold tap water. When the leaves are submerged in water, stick your hands in there and give a good swish, squeezing the cut kale in your fists. Rinse and spin dry. As with humans, a good massage can help take away any lingering bitterness or bite.
Above: I like salads with a good crunch, and for this one I chose roasted almonds that I chopped roughly. Toasted pine nuts would also be lovely in this salad. In either case, the more the merrier.
Above: A nice hard cheese makes a raw kale salad come to life. I alternate between grana padano and parmesan reggiano. If you're in the mood for something softer, you might choose a ricotta salata. The saltier, the better.
Above: I tend not to be too much of an olive oil snob, but this Koroneiki Extra Virgin Olive Oil sold through my neighborhood cheese shop, Stinky Brooklyn, is delicious and affordable at $15 per liter. Brooklyn start-up Qupia collaborates directly with farms and producers in Greece to import this "everyday elixir."
Above: My salad packed and ready to go in an Enamelware Lunch Container from Kaufmann Mercantile, $48.95. Enjoy with a hunk of crusty bread and an extra honey crisp, for good measure.
Raw Kale Salad with Apples and Almonds
- 1 bunch tuscan kale, ribs removed, sliced into thin, short ribbons
- 1 honey crisp apple, chopped
- 1/2 cup roasted almonds, chopped
- 1/2 cup grated grana padano (or similar aged cheese)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of one lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix together kale, almonds, apple, and cheese. Toss with olive oil and lemon juice to taste (I used a ratio of about 2 tablespoons oil to 1 tablespoon lemon juice). Add salt and pepper to taste and an additional shave or ten of cheese. Enjoy.
N.B. This is an update of a post that originally published on September 27, 2013.