Let's have salad.
OK, so I know it's cold outside, and a good part of the country is experiencing blizzards and snow days and all that wintry stuff that makes most people want to hole up in their living room and not come out until there is color and life in the world again. Trust me, I know the feeling. But after eating soup and soup and soup, all day every day, I thought I should bring something a little fresh and crisp into the mix. Hence, salad.
Now before you start thinking that this is the kind of salad that will contribute to the New Year's resolution we all keep making, year after year (in my case, come the holidays, when I'm having hot cocoa and chocolate chip cookies for breakfast and telling myself that it's Christmas, after all, and I'll work it all off after the new year), let me just tell you right now: This is not that kind of salad. This is kale Caesar salad. With fried chickpeas.
When I first saw this recipe in my cook.eat.smile cookbook, I knew I would like it for three reasons. First, it involves kale and chickpeas, which is a combo that can't really go wrong. Second, it is a unique take on the traditional Caesar salad, which is usually just OK at best, but this recipe could take it to a completely different level. And third, Di, one of my lovely bridesmaids, college roommate of three years, lets-skip-gym-class-together partner-in-crime through high school, whom I have known since the first grade, left this note on the recipe: "You MUST MUST MUST make this!" Well, I guess it's settled then. We're having salad today.
I was a little hesitant, at first, to make a salad with raw kale. The raw egg yolk I could deal with, but the raw kale? I like my kale cooked, just slightly softened or even crisp on the edges, and I was afraid that eating it raw would be a bit too bitter for my tastes. I considered cooking the kale just for a minute or two before tossing into the salad, but then decided to just follow the recipe, and I'm so glad I did.
Once coated in Caesar dressing, the kale's bitterness is calmed while its texture holds up as strong as ever, better than any romaine lettuce leaf could. The chickpeas are fried to a deep golden brown, crisp throughout and lending a nutty bite to the salad. The capers, also fried (God bless 'em), provide a sharp contrast to the creamy, tangy dressing. This is not your New Year's diet salad. This is a winter salad, sturdy enough to help brave even the coldest of winter storms, with rich, warm flavors that comfort as well as any stew.
Thanks for the recipe, Di!
Kale Caesar Salad with Fried Chickpeas (recipe courtesy of Di, from cook.eat.smile)
Because the kale is so sturdy, this salad holds up well even after a day. You can make this salad ahead of time, or enjoy it right away and refrigerate any leftovers.
For the salad:
1 bunch dinosaur (Tuscan) kale
1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and completely dried
1 jar capers, drained
canola oil for frying
Caesar dressing (recipe below)
Heat a shallow pan over medium-high heat with enough oil to cover the chickpeas (I used a small frying pan and about 3/4 cup oil). Once oil is hot, add chickpeas and fry for about 5 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy all the way through. Be careful of oil spatter. Watch the chickpeas carefully -- it will take them a while to start turning golden brown, but once they do, it is only a matter of minutes before they can burn. When done, use a slotted spoon to transfer the chickpeas to a plate lined with paper towel.
Add capers to the oil. Again, be careful of splatter. Fry until crispy, about 3 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel. (I poured the capers through a mesh strainer with a jar for catching the oil underneath.)
Rinse and dry kale well. Discard any discolored leaves, and trim away tough stems. Chiffon the leaves to bite size pieces, and place kale in a large bowl.
Toss kale with Caesar dressing (recipe below) to coat. Top with fried chickpeas, capers and Parmesan.
For the Caesar dressing:
1 egg yolk
3 Tbs fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 red pepper flakes
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
3 anchovy fillets, mashed (I skipped these because didn't have any)
scant cup of peanut oil (I used olive oil)
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Whisk egg yolk, lemon juice, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, mustard and anchovies (if using) together. Slowly whisk in oil to emulsify. Stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate in a covered container. When ready to use, whisk again.
Makes 2 cups