When spring has sprung and we go from comfortable and cool days to hot, humid days, my tastebuds crave salad. And, honestly, there’s just no place in San Antonio to get a good salad. Unless, that is, you think iceberg is an acceptable lettuce and Ranch is your favorite dressing.
I can make a meal of a salad. But it must be a “great salad.” And the one I still dream about is the salad I used to have at the Apple Tree in Taos, New Mexico (UPDATE: which is now, sadly, closed). It was called Michelle’s salad and it was a house specialty. It had a variety of fresh greens with some crumbled blue cheese, toasted walnuts, dried cranberries and this amazing honey-blue cheese dressing. The Apple Tree is now closed, but my memory of that salad lives on forever.
Of course, there’s also that amazing kale salad I had at Lulu Wilson in Aspen a few summers ago (UPDATE: which is also, sadly, closed). It was so spectacular I wanted to ask the waiter to cancel my appetizer and bring me another kale salad. But I didn’t. And when I asked for tips on how to make it at home, he wouldn’t budge saying it was the restaurant’s “signature dish” and his lips were sealed. He was so cute, though, I didn’t personalize the rejection.
I simply came home and made kale salad. Made it again and then again until I finally nailed the recipe. That’s when David begged me not to make kale salad again for quite some time.
But now that the weather is warming up and kale is available at the farmers markets, it’s that time again. And I am so very excited about sharing this recipe with you. It’s truly remarkable and features flavors that light up every part of your tongue.
There is salty from the Parmesan.
The perfect touch of sweetness from the currants.
Toasted pine nuts add an earthiness.
And tangy and sour from the lemon vinaigrette.
It’s a spectacular circus of flavors that will change your world. And even get you to love kale. And, yes, I used the word love. This salad is so special, you’ll fall in love and want more of it.
So hold on and get ready for this to change your mind about kale. The fact that it’s raw and full of amazing nutrients is just a bonus.
- 2/3 bunch of kale about 4 cups
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese grated, plus more for garnish
- 1/3 cup currants
- 1/3 cup pine nuts toasted
- Juice of one lemon
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Carefully remove the leaves from the stem and wash and dry thoroughly.
Julienne or chiffonade the kale leaves and put in a large salad bowl.
Add Parmesan and currants and toss.
*In a separate bowl, slowly add the evoo to the juice of one lemon and create an emulsion. Add salt and pepper and stir. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. You want the leaves to be coated, but not super wet, so if you need to (depending on how much kale you used), make a little more dressing and add to coat.
Add the pine nuts that are still warm, as they will help to wilt the salad. Toss thoroughly and refrigerate up to one hour.
As it sits, it marinates and becomes truly spectacular. Before serving, toss thoroughly again and taste. You may want to add a little more of something (lemon juice, evoo, currants, Parm or toasted pine nuts) if one area of flavor is feeling flat. Grate a bit more Parm over the top for presentation and garnish and serve.
Sit back, enjoy your salad and wait for the oh's and ahhh's.
*NOTE--In September of 2012, the actual recipe from the restaurant appeared in one of the industry culinary magazines I receive, Plate. Yes, that's right--five years after my trip, the recipe lands in my lap after I made the salad so many times, my husband asked me NOT to make it anymore--until I finally nailed it and he fell in love with this salad, too. Here's the way they portend to make the salad for just one serving:
2 oz. kale
2 Tablespoons evoo
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup Parmesan
1/4 cup pine nuts
Put kale and olive oil in a bowl and toss by hand. Add lemon juice and toss again. Add currants, Parmesan and pine nuts and toss by hand until mixture is soft. Taste and adjust quantities if needed. Serve on a chilled plate.