Caesar’s anchovies have gone missing but garlic, lemon and Dijon abound in this zesty salad reminiscent of the classic.
I love a good Caesar. And while this is not a Caesar it reminds me of one. One that is eggless and anchovyless but has all of the other punchy flavors you expect in a Caesar.
Back when I got dressed up and went into a downtown office everyday – a long, long time ago it seems – I strutted my high heeled stuff to a nearby (no longer in business) Italian restaurant as often as I could convince friends to meet me there. They served a beautiful Caesar with head-on prawns; it’s the only thing I ever ordered there. Otherwise we hit up a speakeasy-meets-taco-truck dive we nicknamed “burrito in the alley” but that’s a story for another time.
“I’ll have the Caesar, please.”
This salad, adapted from Bon Appétit, is composed of kale, Brussels sprouts and almonds, all of which appear on various “most nutrient-dense foods” lists. The red kale version is a twist inspired by a salad I had at a restaurant in D.C. which used black kale (a.k.a. Lacinato, Dinosaur, Tuscan, Italian Black Cabbage or Cavalo Nero) and purple kale. As a side dish this pairs really well with just about anything – steak, chicken, salmon, shrimp. For a meal on its own add some sliced avocado and a just barely hard boiled egg. (Tip: I discovered AFTER shooting these photos that mixing them ALL together makes for a truly stunning salad.)
A couple of tips when working with raw kale:
-Remove the thick center stems and cut the leaves into thin ribbons. If you purchase pre-washed and pre-cut kale, you will still have go through it and pick out a bunch of stems and cut the kale into smaller pieces. In my opinion it doesn’t save you any time and probably costs more but always go with what seems the freshest. The leaves should feel crisp, avoid the limp stuff.
-As with any salad, make sure your greens are COMPLETELY DRY before putting everything together. The dressing won’t coat wet lettuce and it will be heavy. And gross. Despite its size, a salad spinner is on my top 10 list of must-have kitchen gadgets.
-Thoroughly toss the kale with the dressing and give it a few minutes to soften the leaves before serving. Go ahead, use your hands. This dressing recipe will coat about 16 cups of shredded kale. It won’t seem like it a first but after a full minute or two of tossing it all comes together.
Caesaresque Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad
Garlic, lemon and Dijon abound in this zesty salad reminiscent of a classic Caesar. Use more than one variety of kale for a stunning presentation.
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 1 garlic clove, finely grated (I use a microplane)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed, very thinly sliced (4-6 cups after trimming and slicing)
- 1 pound curly green kale, center stems removed, leaves very thinly sliced (10-12 cups)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/3 cup almonds with skins, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino
Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl and stir. Set aside to allow flavors to meld. Mix thinly sliced Brussels sprouts and kale in a large mixing bowl.
Measure 1/2 cup olive oil into a cup. Spoon 1 tablespoon oil from cup into a skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add chopped almonds to skillet and stir frequently until golden brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer almonds to a paper-towel lined plate and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.
Slowly whisk remaining olive oil into lemon juice mixture and season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed. Add dressing and grated cheese to kale mixture and toss thoroughly. I find a full minute is necessary to coat all of the kale. (Clean hands are the best tools for this job.) The dressing will coat approximately 16 cups of greens so portion accordingly if making a smaller salad. Let the dressed salad sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Top with toasted nuts.
MAKE AHEAD: Dressing, kale mixture and toasted almonds can all be prepared a few hours ahead. Cover the dressing and kale mixture separately and chill. Once toasted almonds have completely cooled, cover in an airtight container and keep at room temperature.
VARIATION: Substitute red, black and/or purple kale for the green kale and Brussels, or mix them all together for a striking salad. Swap toasted hazelnuts for the almonds and add some paper thin slices of radish.
Slicing the kale into thin ribbons is really important here. Kale is quite fibrous but cutting it thinly and letting the acid in the dressing soften the leaves for a few minutes will give you a tender bite.
Updated recipe 03/20/2019: I reduced the amount of kosher salt from 1/2 teaspoon, to 1/4 teaspoon. I have discovered the salt content of Dijon varies by brand noticeably so safer to start on the low side and add if needed.
***If you have a severe gluten allergy or sensitivity or otherwise are serious about eliminating gluten from your diet, always check your labels carefully and buy certified gluten free products.