I may have been late to the national obsession with kale, but I think I’ll be one of its best long term fans. Do you remember the kale with bacon and dried cherries I did a while back? That was delicious. This is different, though. I didn’t know that you could eat kale raw. I still find the notion a little odd, because it really doesn’t taste very good all by itself. Pop a bit of it in your mouth raw and you will make a funny face. But this is yet another one of those miracle recipes like the corn with basil, where a few tiny moves create a miraculously delicious and entirely healthful treat.
I have Carla Bass to thank for this dish. She gave me this recipe recently as we dined on a really stupendous pizza at the Bryan Street Tavern. Her daughter, Karen, is my friend. The LaBarba clan has their food creds in good order. It is a large and lovely family tree with several branches in the food business, including Chena Civello who runs Civello’s Raviolismo with her brother Phil. I may have had my doubts about raw kale, but they were dispelled when Carla presented to me a hand written recipe for this salad. I understand that the woman doesn’t make anything that isn’t superior. Karen has told me about their family holiday get togethers and it sounds like something out of an Italian story book. I knew that this was going to be good.
And, it is good. But it is also simple. It is elemental and easy. You know that I love to gripe about pine nuts. At around $34.99 per pound, I steer clear of them for most uses. I even use pecans in pesto instead of pine nuts. But I have now found a recipe that makes it worth buying them. First, you will use them all, and the more the better. So you aren’t stuck with an expensive half bottle of nuts that go rancid. Second, the flavor is perfect. It is the right nut for this job and I wasn’t inclined to substitute it. And, third, the other ingredients are inexpensive and the yield for this recipe is very impressive. One bunch of kale makes enough salad for four very large servings or eight side servings. I will be making this salad often.
1 bunch curly kale, chopped thinly
1 cup pine nuts (no need to toast)
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lemon, juiced
½ cup olive oil
1. Wash and dry the kale. Remove the stems and chop it into strips by rolling the leaves into a ball and making thin slices. Cut it all once again going in the other direction so you end up with a pile of nicely chopped greens.
2. In a small jar, combine the juice of one lemon and the olive oil. Put a lid on the jar and shake it vigorously.
3. Add the pine nuts and cheese to the greens and toss them to combine. Add the dressing to the greens, and again, toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, as needed.
I found the salt to be crucial to the final dish. Don’t neglect to season this salad a bit.
Now, I’m going to tell you why you don’t need to buy a salad spinner. My mother taught me about centrifugal force when I was a little kid and it is a lesson I have enjoyed to this day. After you rinse your greens, wrap them up in a big flour sack towel holding all four corners together at the top. Go outside and swing it round and round and round. All of the water flies out of the bottom of the towel. Don’t let go of any corners, though, or your salad will be on the lawn. Don’t think you can perform it in your house, either. Well, you can…but you will have a giant trail of speckles on your ceiling and floor and feel stupid. You can also do this by putting the greens in a big resealable bag, snipping a small bit off of the corner and swinging the plastic bag around and around. At this point I don’t have room in my kitchen for any more “stuff.” I’ve come THIS close to buying a spinner about one thousand times and I always decide not to do so because I can create centrifugal force just as well as a little plastic gizmo can.
And, finally, speaking of my mother…. That wonderful bowl in the photo has “The Meaning of Pie” and my name etched on it. It was a gift from my mother. She also has a giant one at her house which is inscribed, “The River of the arms of God” and the Spanish version, “Rio de los Brazos de Dios”. She fills it with lavender buds and it is gorgeous. She got them through Erika Reade Ltd. and they are a really a great gift. Oh, yes…the story of her bowl is that she lives on Possum Kingdom Lake which is part of the Brazos River, and the name was memorialized in John Graves’ Goodbye to a River, which is one of my favorite books.