Friday, August 30, 2013

Lemony Kale Caesar Salad

Lemony Kale Caesar Salad Recipe

I recently followed a recipe for a lemon kale Caesar salad that was good but not great. And this exercise awakened that little beast in me - the one who has been attempting, off and on for 2 decades,  to create a great Caesar salad.  

Bread crumbs are easy - I just dress up torn pieces of crusty French bread with olive oil and aggressive amounts for freshly ground black pepper and garlic powder. I could live on these little crispy, garlicy delights.

And we all know how to prepare kale and sprinkle Parmesan cheese.

But a truly good Caesar dressing has eluded me all these years. Truly good is a matter of speaking. There are countless recipes for Caesar dressing. Some yield a mayo-like consistency, some are really just glorified vinaigrettes. What I am talking about is the pungent, not too oily, not too creamy dressing that is made tableside at good steakhouses. Brimming with the flavors of anchovy and garlic and a few extras that cannot be identified. 

I have observed the table side creations  many times, always wishing I had a photographic memory and the ability to judge measurements at the blink of an eye. I'm convinced the servers who show up with that big wooden bowl and whip up the dressing  in a matter of seconds have done so not to create theater, but to prevent us from being able to recreate their recipe at home. 

One thing is for sure and that is the list of ingredients: anchovies, garlic, Dijon, egg yolk, salt, pepper, lemon juice, Parmesan, olive oil and the two often ignored ingredients: Worcestershire and Tabasco. I have spent countless hours perusing recipes online {because I am a little obsessed} and most exclude an ingredient or two. Others call for 1 anchovy or 1 garlic clove which I know not to be true.  Some call for just a few tablespoons of olive oil {not enough} and some call for as much as a cup and a half {too much}. So I decided to experiment on my own - again and again - with the list of ingredients I know to be true. Toiling with the ratios and sitting down to dinner concluding "this isn't it" pretty much sums up my evenings over the last few weeks. Then last night something surprising happened. I came up with a recipe that is nearly there. Close enough to that great steakhouse Caesar recipe I have been pursuing for so long - close enough to share with you. 

I decided to go a little out of boundaries of tradition and add extra lemon juice and a sprinkle of preserved lemon rind as the mood struck me. For a more traditional Caesar dressing you can skip the preserved lemon and extra lemon juice. I think you will enjoy both versions.

Lemony Kale Caesar Salad

1 bunch lacinato kale, center stalks removed and discarded, leaves sliced into slivers
1 c + 1/2 c bite size pieces of crusty French bread
garlic powder
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 t Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk {*}
10 anchovies
4 - 6 T lemon juice, to taste
1 t Worcestershire
3 dashes Tabasco
1/2 t salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 c olive oil + more for bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
Rind of 1 preserved lemon, diced 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bread pieces on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with pepper and garlic powder and stir, arranging the bread in a single layer. Bake until crunchy and slightly golden, stirring halfway through {about 10-12 minutes total baking time}. Set aside to cool.

In a food processor, combine garlic cloves, Dijon, egg yolk, anchovies, 4 T lemon juice, Worcestershire, Tabasco, salt and pepper until smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle 1 c olive oil through the tube. Process for a good minute to allow the mixture to thicken slightly. Add 1/2 c Parmesan-Reggiano cheese and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings and lemon juice if you like.

In a large bowl, combine kale, bread crumbs and remaining 1/2 c Parmesan-Reggiano cheese. Add desired amount of dressing and toss.

Divide salad among plates and sprinkle with preserved lemon. Finish with freshly ground black pepper.

Yields 2 as an entree and 4 as a starter.

{*} know your risks of consuming raw egg yolks. I grew up on them but if you are concerned or have been told not to consume them, perhaps you can substitute 1 T of Vegenaise}.

Extra salad dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Many say it can last up to 1 week but I stick with 2 -3 days. 

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Source: Jill Crusenberry

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