Say “raw kale salad” before serving dinner and you may not get the round of applause you were hoping for. That’s unfortunate, though, because raw kale–which, I should say here, is incredibly good for you–is so easy to dress up. I’ve had raw kale salads before, mostly at hip Italian joints like Franny’s in New York, but I’d never made one. Then last week I had some leftover kale (Tuscan kale, in fact) from a lentil soup that I love from my cookbook (just 8 more months ’til you can buy it!). I decided that, along with the leftover lentil soup, I’d serve up a raw kale salad that I would improvise on the spot.
The first step was to clean and dry the kale. Oh, and to stem it too. That means ripping out those fat stems and leaving just the leaves:
Then roll up a few leaves of kale like a cigar and slice ’em thin. That’s what’s in this bowl, the shredded kale:
Now’s the fun part. Take a big handful of walnuts and toast them in a dry skillet until they’re fragrant and warm. I have to say here, as an aside, that I’ve been blown away recently by how much walnuts change when you toast them. In their natural state, straight from the bag, they can be kind of bland and airplane snack food-like; toasted, they get crunchier and they release all their oils so they have this intensified walnut taste. I’ll never not toast my walnuts again!
Chop them up and grab some lemons:
Make sure you wash and dry your lemons with paper towels before zesting (to get off any waxy exterior) and then zest two lemons on to your kale:
Add the walnuts:
At this point you should squeeze those lemons (remove the seeds first) over everything and then add a big glug of good olive oil, plus a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Finally, grate in a bunch of Pecorino cheese:
Now it’s on your shoulders to make this taste wonderful. Toss everything together for a good 30 seconds so everything gets coated and then taste a leaf. Does it need more acid? Add more lemon juice. Does it need more olive oil? Then add that. There’s a good chance it’ll want more cheese so add that too. Keep going until you have a kale salad that’ll have people cheering and serve it up:
Kale is such a resilient leaf it can hold up to the onslaught of olive oil, lemon juice and cheese. In other words: it’s easily corruptible. And that’s what makes a raw kale salad great.