Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts

Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts-9029

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-

Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts

Serves 4 generously


  • 1/3 pound lacinato kale (Tuscan kale, cavalo nero, dinosaur kale)
  • Salt
  • 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Allow to sit at least 30 minutes.
  6. Arrange the plums, cheese and walnuts on salad plates and top with the kale.

Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts-2

Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts-8930

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Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts-8953

Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts-8994

Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts-9024

Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts-9029-2

Jody notes:

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.

53 thoughts

  1. Thanks Ken and Jody. Cannot wait to try this one.

    This must be the month to promote kale. In case they missed it, the Francophiles among your readership might enjoy a recent NYT (9/21/13) article: “Trendy Green Mystifies France. It’s a Job for the Kale Crusader!” The French call this cruciferous vegetable “the curly headless cabbage.”


  2. Yes, kale seems to be the only green thing Angelenos will eat/buy. Note I didn’t say cook. I love the plums! You are an amazing photographer (very rarely do I catch the fibrous membrane in the plum’s flesh. Almost diaphanous.) Thank you.

  3. Gorgeous as always, and this–“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?”–is worthy of a cyber high five. :)
    So I have an annoying question: do you have a non-blue cheese substitute recommendation for this recipe? I love it, in theory. In practice, it gives my gut a serious stomachache. (I’ll never be allowed through French customs now!)

  4. That is a gorgeous looking salad. I love the different flavors and textures. It’s a great use of seasonal ingredients. Nice knife skills with the kale! It’s actually not that easy to cut it that evenly.

  5. Plums and fennel seeds – that’s a combination I wouldn’t have thought of. I do like them with pan-fried sweetcorn. Hmm, as dark plums are on special offer this week I’ll have to buy in a couple of punnets as I’ve never really bothered to cook with them before. Ahem, apart from jam, that is.
    – That’s what black kale looks like. Kale just isn’t popular here. Might’ve mentioned before that the only kale I can buy is already chopped. Far less nutrients I would’ve thought. Still tasty though, when the need arises :)
    – Wonderful set of photos!

    • Plums and sweet corn – that’s one I’ve never encountered. I’m beginning to think that France and England are kale-deprived. You might have to save this until your next villa rental in Tuscany, then sub Gorgonzola for the Roquefort. :-) Ken

  6. I usually read your posts first thing Friday morning, but this one had to wait until evening. I’m chuckling, salivating and remembering that Jody has killer kale technique. Thanks for a satisfying end to a trying week. Kale for dinner tomorrow night? I think so.

    • Always happy to oblige. I debated doing another series of kale-stripping photos, then said, “Nah, not this time.” Good eye if you recognized the technique from the single up-from-under shot. Ken

  7. Kale has not made its way into Japan or if it has on a very limited basis. I think I may have had it in NYC but am not entirely sure and certainly do not remember how it tastes. Your version, as always, looks great so I’m thinking it must taste great as well.

    • It’s funny how certain food take a long time to make inroads into certain cultures (.e.g kale in France, where at least people recognize it, let alone Japan, where it seems unknown). Recently I went to a new yogurt shop here–their most populr flavor was taro! I have to wonder how many of the people buying it even know what taro is. Ken

      • I just found out that kale is most often consumed here as a juice/health drink by the name of “ao-jiru” meaning “blue (which word we often use to mean green) juice”. I have never had it but it has an image of being bitter.

      • Well, I think it can be, especially if concentrated, as it might be in juice. Once in awhile I’ll make a smoothie for breakfast. If it includes kale I make sure it also includes a peach, or a splash of cider. Ken

      • We are actually having kale week! Starting with kale pasta (using nettle pasta recipe), then probably your salad. When the markets give you huge handfuls of kale…! :-)

      • Jody was serving nettle pasta at Rialto a few months ago, based, I believe, on a Puglian dish. Good stuff. Although I’m sure your kale version will be great too–that’s one kind of flavored pasta I’ve never made. Sausage and tomatoes? Gorgonzola cream? Bluefish and corn? Ken

      • We had kale pasta with a little lamb stock thickened with butter and parmesan (just enough to moisten), with a tad more chiffonade kale folded through, crumbly goats fetta and chopped hazelnuts. Not our usual Sunday dinner but it worked!

        Now onto kale #2. :-)

  8. Pingback: Kale salad with warm plum vinaigrette, toasted walnuts and goat cheese | Kaled

    • Hi, Charlotte–This is so strange. Not that I’ve been on a kale hunt during my last few visits to Europe, but after seeing it in Italy I just assumed that everyone ate it elsewhere as well. As you can tell from some of the other comments, this clearly isn’t the case. Kale has been on something of a roll in the US for the last five years. You’re next. :-) Ken

    • Hi, Steve–It does work. So well that during a recent visit to France a friend we were staying with asked us to leave it behind, which we did. Thanks for the kind words about the kale. Ken

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