Food trends are fun, but what do we do when one passes? Am I supposed to stop loving cupcakes? Or toast? What if I truly adore sun-dried tomatoes or avocado toast? Or pesto? What if I don't care that it is the quiche of the '80s?
Such is the dilemma of the modern diner, where we might see something we love spike in popularity, only to disappear once it's deemed passe. Hence my squeal of delight every time I see that kale has held on to it's rightful place on menus, despite seemingly hitting market saturation in the last few years. And if that kale comes raw and dressed in a garlicky, creamy caesar dressing? Stand back, that salad is getting inhaled.
But here is the thing about raw kale. It's delicious, no question, and undeniably good for you, and if you massage it and dress it with something acidic it can be quite tender. But. Even with all of that, it can be kind of, shall we say, fibrous? It can be a lot of work to make your way through a salad bowl of the stuff, honestly, and I say that with love. Which is why I was so excited a few weeks ago to see the New York Times publish a recipe for a kale caesar salad that treated the kale as more of an accent to the crispy romaine hearts, instead of the main event. I had to try it for myself, and it did not disappoint. The dressing was sharp, acidic, creamy, and garlicky, and I even bravely used the anchovies and poached egg called for! The romaine was crisp, the kale added a nice contrast, and I garnished the whole pile with cajun chickpea croutons, because why not?
So, if you've been afraid to go all in on kale, or you just don't love it as the main event, here is a salad for you that finds the happy middle ground.
Kale Caesar Salad with Cajun Chickpea Croutons
Adapted from NYT Cooking. I went for chickpea croutons instead of bread and I chopped all of the lettuce and kale because a huge pet peeve of mine is needing a knife for my salad. I also ignored the instructions for chilling the lettuce, relying on my refrigerator to chill the leaves on its own without ice.
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
1 tsp olive oil
1 bunch tuscan kale
8 oz romaine hearts
1 large clove garlic
4 anchovy filets
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
4 oz parmesan, grated
- Make croutons: preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread chickpeas on a baking sheet in a single layer and toss with the olive oil then liberally coat with cajun seasoning. Roast for 20 minutes, then shake pan to roll the chickpeas around, then roast for another 15 minutes until golden. They will get crispier as they cool.
- Chop both kale and romaine hearts, rinse clean and pat completely dry. Add both to a large bowl and toss together, then refrigerate, covered, until ready to dress.
- In a blender, combine the garlic, anchovies, mustard, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice and pulse until completely smooth.
- Poach egg in microwave: break egg into a glass measuring cup or bowl and cover with water, by about 1/2 inch. Microwave in 30 second increments until whites are set and the yolk is thickened (I'm pretty sure I over-poached my egg and it still blended up fine, you just don't want it cooked through).
- Pour egg out of the bowl or measuring cup over a slotted spoon or small strainer, then add to the blender with the pureed ingredients, then blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
- When ready to serve, remove lettuce from the refrigerator and add half the dressing, half the parmesan, and half the chickpea croutons. Toss well, then sprinkle with remaining cheese and chickpea croutons. Serve remaining dressing alongside the salad.