A Salad with Sizzle!Wednesday, June 19
Before we get into this week’s story I wanted to say thank you to all of the chefs, managers, and restaurateurs who reached out to me last week after my article. Despite there being a little backlash from readers who felt I was taking things a little personally, there had to be fifteen or twenty industry colleagues who reached out to say good job or thank you. Clearly I am not alone in my thinking and it needed to be said.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s get down to business, and the business this week is kale. This leafy green has been all the rage over the past several months and despite my best efforts to avoid it, I have finally caved and come to realize its value.
I guess my reluctance to ride the kale wave was the fact that my only real exposure to it was seeing it used on breakfast and lunch plates, used as garnish, along with orange wheels and slivers of cantaloupe. At the time, its popularity was at a real low in the North American food market, so it was deemed to be a cheap and versatile ingredient for garnishing plates. Little did I know, I had been pushing aside a super food for all of these years without even giving it a second thought. In fact, when I first began expanding my role with Century Hospitality one of the first initiatives I started was to remove the kale and orange garnish from our lunch items at Century Grill, as I felt it didn’t belong in a restaurant of our caliber. Sorry Jeff, I guess I should have known that you were a guy ahead of your time!
What finally brought me around was a trip to visit the Nomad food truck earlier this spring. It was one of the first sunny and warm days, hinting at the possibility that summer might actually be around the corner. As I stepped up to the counter I had that moment of guilt and felt maybe I should make a healthier food choose with the threat of bikini season being right around the corner. As I glanced up and down the chalkboard my eyes kept landing back on the kale salad. Reluctantly I decided to order it, fully expecting to regret choosing a salad over their Mac n’ Cheese or Smoked Meat. When I popped the lid on my healthy choice I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did the salad look delicious, it smelled delicious. There were boiled potatoes, smoked tomatoes, croutons, delicious chunks of Sylvan Star Old Grizzly and a perfectly poached egg. The vinaigrette provided the perfect balance of acidity and freshness, bringing the whole salad together. In hindsight, it may not have been the most healthy dish, but it was absolutely delectable and opened my eyes to the possibilities of cooking with this versatile leafy green.
Kale, a member of the Brassica oleracea species, shares commonalities with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. It was one of the most common vegetables in Europe until the Middle Ages, and it’s use dates all the way back to the 4th century B.C., but its true power has only become known in recent years. When steamed it can work to reduce cholesterol significantly. It has been proven to have antioxidant benefits, anti-inflammatory benefits, and even cancer preventing benefits. These are just some of the many great positives of incorporating this tasty green into your diet.
With all of this new research coming out to support its benefits it’s no wonder why this vegetable has seen such a positive resurgence. It has been popping up on menus everywhere lately and it was finally time for us to get in the game. So, shortly after my visit to the food truck, Chef Hans and I began to play with creating our very own kale salad. Here is what we came up with. It’s full of fresh and lively flavours, and screams summer. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and if you don’t feel like making it, just stop by Century Grill and we will do all the work for you!
Summer Kale Salad
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Feeds: 4 people
For the salad:
1 lb. fresh kale
¼ cup pine nuts
1 pint grape tomatoes
12 slices pancetta
4 tbsp. shaved parmesan
For the preserved lemons:
1 pc. lemon, cleaned, sliced thin, about 16 slices
1 cup rice vinegar
½ cup sugar
1 pc. bay leaf
1 tsp. coriander seeds
For the vinaigrette:
1 cup walnut oil (can substitute canola or EVOO)
½ cup white balsamic vinegar
1 pc. egg yolk
1 tsp. Tabasco
4 tbsp. honey
- In a blender or food processor combine white balsamic vinegar, egg yolk and honey
- With the machine on high slowly incorporate the walnut oil until combined, do not add too fast, you wish to create an immulsion
- Season and set aside, this can be made up a week in advance and stores nicely
- Preheat the oven to 400F
- Place the pancetta slices down on a baking sheet, lined with parchment
- Bake until lightly browned and crispy, but not overcooked
- Remove from pan, drain any fat and cool
- Place the sugar, rice vinegar, bay leaf and coriander in a pot and bring to a simmer
- Lay the sliced lemons in the bottom of a heat proof bowl
- Once the rice vinegar has come to a simmer and the sugar has dissolved pour the hot liquid over the lemons and let sit until cool, these can be done one or two days in advance and will hold up in the fridge for up to a week
- Place a pan on medium heat, add the pine nuts
- Toss the pine nuts continually to ensure they toast but do not burn
- You will know when they are ready when you can smell the aroma of popcorn cooking, then remove from the heat and set aside
- Wash the kale, removing any large stems, and spin to dry
- Half the grape tomatoes
- Place the washed kale in a bowl, ensuring it is dry
- Toss with an appropriate amount of the vinaigrette and season
- Place the greens on a large platter, or four plates if you prefer
- Generously garnish the salad with the fresh shaved parmesan, followed by the pine nuts, tomatoes, sliced pancetta, and the preserved lemons
- Serve immediately
Enjoy this delectable summer salad and feel great about the choice you made! You can even serve this with seared salmon or some delicious sliced strpiloin and make it a meal.