Tuesday, January 25, 2011

tuscan kale salad with pecorino

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad with Pecorino

Were I not so bleary-eyed yesterday, I might be able to express my glee about this salad. But I slept poorly, woke up early, and skipped my morning coffee and sat at my desk all day without so much as a drop of caffeine. This morning treated me to a migraine and I decided to work from home where I can be in a dark and quiet room. But this salad is a revelation (it’s basically a kale Caesar salad if you think about it), and it’s going to be on regular rotation this winter. I’ve already made it three times in the span of ten days. I would have made more, but I ran out of lacinato kale. Not to worry, more is coming this week and I plan on making loads more of this come Thursday night for our book club dinner, which I’m hosting this time. But as for you, you must make it as soon as you possibly can. It’s not at all time-consuming and you’ll be amazed that you might start craving a salad this time of year. I can’t implore you enough – go now!

lacinato kale

Right around this time of year, I face the perennial problem of how to eat more greens while most everything I see at the farmers’ market is brown. I think because it’s been so bitterly cold outside (six degrees out yesterday morning!) I’m turned off by traditional salads with crunchy lettuce and the usual out-of-season salad accouterments – the last thing I want on my place something cold. I want greens that’s chewy, almost meaty, with a strong, nutty bite and a toothsome quality. Give me something I can sink my teeth into!

toasting the bread for breadcrumbs the dressing

This salad is my winter antidote. Raw, chewy, leafy kale on my plate with a hearty dressing and homemade breadcrumbs. One of my friends was incredulous, “You don’t even blanche the kale?” after I told her that I found my favorite winter salad and wanted her to make it as soon as possible. I explained to her that unlike regular kale, which doesn’t taste good raw, lacinato or Tuscan kale is a slightly different cousin and I think raw is the way to go with it. Especially in this salad.

I found the recipe for this after digging through a few of my cookbooks looking for a way to make something with lacinato kale. I’d gotten two bunches of it at the market – it looked sturdy and wintry-green. I found my answer in Melissa Clark’s “In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite” excellent book (also Heidi, who knows a good recipe when she sees one made it on her blog). Because I know Melissa, this might sound like a typical plug and I want to be clear here – it’s not. If I could shout this across the interwebs (and I guess it’s what I’m doing here now), I would say the following: every home cook would be better off with Melissa’s book in her (or his) kitchen repertoire. It’s food you want to cook in your home period. Dinner on a weeknight after a tough day at work; a leisurely Sunday supper with friends; a meal all for yourself when you eat alone. It celebrates the everyday glamour of food, namely, the quality in-season ingredients, wholesome eating without the label of a health-nut, and recipes designed for a home kitchen. And while the recipes are good, they are also well-written, something I find isn’t always the case in cookbooks.


Think of this salad as a wintry version of a Caesar salad, minus the anchovy. But the pungent garlic blended with the punch of the lemon juice and the kick of pecorino Romano make this salad a show-stopper. My first crack at this, I made the mistake of making just enough for two people and Andrew and I wound up fighting for seconds – we decided to split it. The second time around, I made enough to last us two days (it was great the following day) and had to use Parmiggiano Reggiano, after realizing that we had finished off our chunk of pecorino. Instead of just toasting the bread in a toaster, I toasted in my cast iron with a tiny bit of olive oil to flavor the browned, crispy bread – I then transferred the bread to a food processor and chopped it into rough breadcrumbs with some chunkier pieces. It acted like a great sponge in soaking up some of the dressing – something I was hoping it would do.

digging in

I think that armed with this salad and a handful of hearty soups, warm rice pudding and vegetable curry, I can survive the winter. I am, however, currently rethinking this whole “no caffeine” this week rule. It’s day two and I’m nursing a headache (and who’s to say it’s not a caffeine headache?). I might have to sneak in a small cup of coffee to test my theory.

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad with Pecorino
Adapted from “In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite” by Melissa Clark

You may be tempted here to use already made breadcrumbs instead of making your own, and this is where I implore you to just trust me and make them. It will make a huge huge difference in your salad. If you don’t have a food processor, just try to tear up really small pieces from your bread to make tiny pieces – they’re not quite breadcrumbs in the traditional sense of the word, but what you want here is a slightly crispy outside and a softer inside. When the dressing will get absorbed in there, it’ll be truly amazing!

1 bunch Tuscan kale (also known as black or lacinato kale)
1 thin slice country bread (part whole-wheat or rye is nice), or 1/4 cup homemade bread crumbs (coarse)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino cheese, more for garnish
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for garnish
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Trim bottom 2 inches off kale stems and discard, or put into your “stock bag”. Slice kale, including ribs, into 3/4-inch-wide ribbons. You should have 4 to 5 cups. Place kale in a large bowl.

In a skillet, over medium heat, drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil and using a pastry brush, spread it around in a thin layer. Toast the bread until golden on both sides. Tear it into small pieces and pulse in a food processor until mixture forms coarse crumbs.

Using a mortar and pestle, or with the back of a knife, pound garlic into a paste, and transfer it to a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup cheese, 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper flakes and black pepper, and whisk to combine. Pour dressing over kale and toss very well to thoroughly coat all the kale ribbons (Because dressing will be thick you will need to do a lot of tossing to make sure it’s coating all the ribbons).

Allow the salad to sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with bread crumbs, additional cheese and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2 to 4, but in our household, it’s most definitely 2.

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  • 1

    Bummer about the headache; yay about that beautiful salad! Love melissa’s book and had spied that salad….yours looks wonderful.

    January 25, 2011 9:33 am
  • 2
    tara said:

    Tonight is soup and sandwich night … and salad too, I think. I adore your description of a “winter’s Caesar”. Sounds perfect.

    January 25, 2011 9:35 am
  • 3
    Whitney said:

    I love everything about Melissa’s book but I just haven’t had the chance to cook from it enough. I’m making this salad this weekend.

    January 25, 2011 9:41 am
  • 4

    Yum, I can imagine this being great the next day when the kale has just slightly wilted and absorbed the dressing. The lacinato kale can be hard to find around here though, and if you find it, it’s inexplicably more expensive than regular kale. Boo.

    What did you read for book club, anything worth sharing?

    January 25, 2011 9:45 am
  • 5
    Rachel said:

    This sounds so good! I haven’t tried a raw kale salad yet, but I’m betting this one will have me hooked. Funny, I had been following you on twitter but hadn’t added your blog to my reader (um, duh!). So I glad I finally did!

    January 25, 2011 10:16 am
  • 6
    Radish said:

    Noelle – nothing worth recommending :( I wasn’t a huge fan of this book we just read, “Half a Life” – it was moving but just wasn’t for me.

    January 25, 2011 10:26 am
  • 7

    I LOVE raw kale salad. I do a very similar thing with it, but have not tried the red pepper flakes in it. I will have to add that next time!

    January 25, 2011 10:48 am
  • 8
    Renee said:

    I already have Heidi’s bookmarked on my google reader; you have persuaded me to give this a go (that is, as soon as I can stop eating her roasted delicata squash salad with harissa over a bed of raw Tuscan kale). Mmmmmmm :)

    January 25, 2011 10:56 am
  • 9

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by sassyradish, Brian Samuels. Brian Samuels said: RT @sassyradish: {NEW POST} Raw Tuscan Kale Salad – my favorite winter salad – make it soon! http://bit.ly/fTxDTo […]

    January 25, 2011 11:13 am
  • 10

    We love this salad.

    January 25, 2011 11:38 am
  • 11

    YES! I’m totally making this as I’ve been obsessed with kale lately.

    January 25, 2011 12:50 pm
  • 12
    Allison said:

    I have been wanting to make this salad for a while now and you just convinced me that it’s the perfect time! I know what you mean about out of season salads, and how sometimes a heartier salad just hits the spot. I recently made a shaved Brussels sprouts salad and it was hearty and delicious – perfect for winter!

    January 25, 2011 3:57 pm
  • 13

    […] tuscan kale salad with pecorino « Sassy Radish I explained to her that unlike regular kale, which doesn't taste good raw, lacinato or Tuscan kale is a slightly different cousin and I think raw is the way to go with it. Especially in this salad. I found the recipe for this after . […]

    January 26, 2011 4:53 pm
  • 14
    caitlin said:

    would it be wrong to put a poached egg on this and call it dinner? i think not.

    January 29, 2011 11:51 am
  • 15
    Radish said:

    caitlin – it is never wrong to put an egg on just about anything :-) go for it – what a terrific idea!

    January 29, 2011 12:04 pm
  • 16

    I really like putting toasted hazelnuts or pecans on a raw kale salad. The richness of the nuts really compliments the clean bitterness of the kale.

    I love your pictures by the way. I’ve been having the trickiest time trying to photograph kale.

    February 2, 2011 1:16 pm
  • 17
    caitlin said:

    holy wow! i knew this would be good, but i had no idea it would be SO good. i’m having trouble not eating the entire thing by myself.

    i did put the poached egg on it, came out delicious!

    February 2, 2011 9:49 pm
  • 18

    I am so excited about making this salad. I have exhausted my winter vegetable sides, and I literally cannot eat another spinach salad. Looks fabulous!

    February 17, 2011 5:05 pm
  • 19

    […] turned to salads I typically gravitate to in the winter. Plates of bright citrus, bowls of hearty lacinato kale, mounds of sturdy escarole. But none of those went as well with pulled pork as a traditional slaw. […]

    April 28, 2011 4:36 pm
  • 20

    We’ve had this the last two weekends in a row – I agree it serves 2! We love, love, love it. Even though it’s the middle of the summer and we should be living on tomatoes!

    July 31, 2011 2:41 pm
  • 21

    […] for something new to "spice up" our relationship. I've seen this salad on a few of my favorite food blogs and I thought it might lead us back to the non-stop PDA phase. It worked! Suddenly I'm absolutely […]

    August 13, 2011 12:35 am
  • 22

    […] kale, it can be used solely for this salad, or check out a different take on tough spring greens on Sassy Radish.  The Tuscan Kale Salad with Pecorino looks […]

    May 24, 2012 8:26 pm
  • 23

    […] what I’ll feel like eating for a snack? And oftentimes we cut up citrus into this salad to give this one and that one a […]

    January 10, 2013 3:00 pm
  • 24

    […] my head is at currently makes me crave those trusted all-stars we seem to cook over and over. The Tuscan kale and pecorino salad, the roasted squash and onion (though lately I’ve been making it with sweet potato and it’s […]

    March 11, 2013 12:38 pm
  • 25
    Lisa said:

    I’ve made this a couple times since it was posted and it is the only raw kale salad I’ve ever enjoyed (and I enjoyed it immensely!). I added toasted walnut pieces to the breadcrumbs and threw in some carrots for crunch. Delicious!

    March 19, 2013 1:48 pm

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