For your consideration: Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts. By now it’s hard to believe that there remains a kale stoned unturned. A few days ago, idling at a traffic light, the bedraggled bumper sticker on the car ahead of me drew my eye. The sun had bleached out the yellow background and faded the text to WRAITH56, and the edges of the sticker had that scalloped, singed effect favored by moviemakers for pirate treasure maps, as though someone had tried to peel away the bumper sticker, gotten disgusted, then said the hell with it. I had to squint. EAT MORE KALE. Good lord, I wondered with a frisson of culinary panic, is kale overexposed? Not so long ago you could hardly cruise down to the Gap for new underwear or Pinkberry for whatever it is that people buy at Pinkberry without noticing the sea of EAT MORE KALEs around you, as though overnight everyone in town in had joined a spanking new megachurch, and somehow forgotten to tell you. Have we been kaled to death? Can STOP TALKING ABOUT KALE bumper stickers be far behind?
Not so fast. Kale may need to take a step back from the limelight to give our green-receptor cones a chance to reset, but there’s still a lot of unexplored life in the leaf. Gwyneth Paltrow is even more overexposed than kale–and if she showed up on your doorstep looking faint from a toxic cleanse you’d still invite her in for a tuna sandwich and kombucha, right? Where, for example, does lacinato come from? Don’t know? So there is an unturned stone. Lacinato is a corruption of the Italian laciniato, which comes from a Latin word for fringe. This would seem to have little to do with kale, except that the simplest of all fringes is nothing but a series of precise incisions repeated along the edge of a piece of cloth. Roughly translated, lacinato means “that green leafy thing with the deep regular slashes on in its leaves.” There now–you’re armed against the next dull moment in a cocktail party. Lacinato is also our favorite variety of kale, and our choice in this week’s salad. Are we over-kaled? I think not. Not all important things fit on a bumper sticker: Eat kale, if you’re not already. It’s really f****** delicious. Enjoy. Ken
NOTE: Jody’s lending her hospitality know-how to folks in Haiti this week and I’m on a commercial photo shoot, so our next post will be in two weeks. See you then.
Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts
Serves 4 generously
- 1/3 pound lacinato kale (Tuscan kale, cavalo nero, dinosaur kale)
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 6 prune plums
- ½ cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 star anise, or ½ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
- 2-3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons minced shallot
- 2 teaspoons minced rosemary leaves
- 4 ounces Roquefort, Gorgonzola Dolce, or other blue cheese, cut into 4 wedges
- ¼ cup toasted walnuts
- Strip the kale leaves off the stems. Slice the leaves into ¼-inch wide strips. Toss the leaves with ½ teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of oil and allow to sit in a bowl for 20 minutes.
- Split the plums in half and remove the pits. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the plums, skin side down, and sear until golden, about 2 minutes.
- Flip over, sprinkle with honey and red wine, add the bay leaf and star anise and cook, tossing the plums now and again until they are tender, but not squishy, about 3 minutes. Remove the plums and let them cool a bit. Reduce the red wine and honey to 2 tablespoons. Discard the bay leaf and star anise.
- Add the shallots and rosemary to the wine and whisk in the remaining oil. Season with pepper and 2 to 3 teaspoons vinegar. The amount of vinegar you need will depend on the acidity of the wine and the vinegar. You do want a little acidic kick. Wait to season with salt until after dressing the salad to avoid over-salting. Add the warm vinaigrette to the kale and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
- Allow to sit at least 30 minutes.
- Arrange the plums, cheese and walnuts on salad plates and top with the kale.
This isn’t a delicate salad. It’s filled with wildly contrasting–but complimentary–flavors and textures. Both the plums and the cheese are soft and sensual, but at opposite ends of the flavor spectrum; one sweet and the other salty and sharp. The earthy flavor and slightly chewy mouth feel of kale connects them both. Don’t skip the two waiting periods while making the salad. They’re crucial for softening the chiffonade (thin strips) of raw kale–so it moves from tough to just a little resilient. The next time I make the plums I’ll use some crushed fennel seeds instead of star anise (which I used because it was in the photos). The flavor of the latter doesn’t come through strongly enough for my taste.