I am on a big Caesar Salad kick. Big kick. Huge kick.
And, of course, my Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale kick is going on, like, year 3.
Therefore, the stars have aligned for a Kale Caesar Salad.
Nothing is fresher than a salad, right? But guess what. The ingredients for this particular salad are actually very easy to keep on-hand. While still being fresh. Mind. Blown.
You may have seen one of these delicious salads on my Instagram diary of my in-stock cooking week – I had all of the ingredients in my fridge and pantry. Skeptical? Let’s discuss. Starting with the big green bowl above, and moving counter-clockwise…
- Lacinato Kale. I love this healthy green for many reasons, but a biggie for my busy weeknights (and weekends) is that it keeps for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. What? I know. Bags and buckets of spinach keep like 5 days – maybe 6. But it’s true. I store my stalks of kale in a large bowl in the fridge that is partially filled with water. The leaves are usually about half-submerged, and I rotate them every few days to make sure they all get a chance to sip on the water.
- Dressing. Homemade, of course, from ingredients you have, or should definitely consider having, all the time. Extra virgin olive oil, dijon mustard, a garlic clove, lemon juice (bottled or from a fresh lemon), and parmesan reggiano cheese (see immediately below).
- Parmesan Reggiano. I get a bucket of this versatile grated cheese from Trader Joe’s, and, if I don’t finish it from snacking alone, it will last in the fridge for a few weeks.
- Panko-Anchovy Topping. Made from panko, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and a few anchovy fillets – and lemon zest if you have it – it’s easy to make this so-very-caesar alternative to croutons from ingredients you can keep in stock.
Put it all together and whattayagot?
Let’s unpack some of these ingredients, because I admit it, they can sound scary. But – are not.
KALE. LACINATO KALE. If you “don’t really like kale,” you likely have not tried this variety, sliced thin-as-thin-can-be, and dressed well. Truth be told, I’m not big on the curly stuff, just this long stalk, that is like a tougher romaine. It doesn’t give you that literally-bit-off-more-than-I-can-chew feeling that curly kale does. Just chop it into very fine strips, discarding the tough stems, and make sure to massage in the dressing a bit before serving. But don’t let it sit too long! The kale will drink that dressing right up (which is easily rectified by adding more dressing).HOMEMADE CAESAR DRESSING. Adapted from this Neely recipe, I love the flavor-to-ease-of-assembly ratio. Like 100:1. All of the ingredients just go in the mini-prep, and you are off to the races. See above note regarding how thirsty kale can be, drinking up this dressing!
PANKO-ANCHOVY TOPPING. You may remember this little gem from a Roasted Asparagus with Panko-Anchovy Topping post of days gone by. I “don’t like anchovies” either, but you can’t see them. “They’re just there for the flavor.” Note: I never understood this Mom-ism, until I started cooking. My mom used to say it all the time about onions in spaghetti sauce, in my pre-onion-loving days. And now, I say it to you. Circle of mom.
- 2 T lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 T dijon mustard
- .25 - .5 c parmesan reggiano
- extra virgin olive oil
- Bunch of lacinato (dinosaur) kale, sliced into the thinnest strips possible.
- ⅓ c extra virgin olive oil
- 6 to 7 anchovy filets
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 c panko
- zest from one lemon (optional)
- Place the lemon juice, garlic clove, and mustard in a small food processor.
- Process until the ingredients are combined and the garlic as finely chopped as possible.
- Add some of the cheese and process again.
- Slowly stream in the olive oil (there are tiny holes in the lid of my processor for this precise purpose) until it reaches the consistency you like.
- Stir in extra cheese, to your taste.
- Heat the olive oil and anchovies in a small sauce pan over medium to high heat, stirring constantly, until the anchovies are almost dissolved.
- If anchovies gross you out, you can strain out any remaining pieces if you would like, before proceeding to the next step. Just do it carefully because you are working with hot oil!
- Remove from heat and stir in the garlic for 30 seconds. It may brown quickly in the hot oil.
- Add the panko and stir until golden and the oil absorbs. Again, it may brown pretty quickly.
- Stir in the lemon zest, if using.
- Place the kale in a large bowl, and massage a bit of the dressing into kale - just squeeze it through.
- Let it sit for a few minutes, and then when ready to serve, add additional dressing.
- Top the salad with the Panko-Anchovy Topping, and additional cheese.