Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"True" Tuscan Kale Salad

If you've been on my San Diego Foodstuff Facebook page, you probably saw a post I wrote just over a week ago: "I think my current favorite flavor combination is lemon, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Made the best kale salad with that as dressing, plus grated Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. I thank Nathan Coulon for that..."

Nathan Coulon, of course, is the chef and member of Cooks Confab who had been at Modus, at Quarter Kitchen, and, of course, long ago, at his mother's pastry shop, Michele Coulon Dessertier. A San Diego native, he'd departed for awhile to join True Food Kitchen--and now he's back and opening San Diego's  True Food Kitchen this week in Fashion Valley.

Nathan, Michael, Mike Bragg, and me--refusing to relinquish the salad
Nathan, and his boss, former San Diego chef Michael Stebner (Region, Nine-Ten, Azzura Point), recently were guests on the radio show I had hosted, Wine & Dine San Diego Radio, to talk about True Food Kitchen. They stayed afterwards to do a video demo of one of the restaurant's dishes. And that's how I was introduced to this fabulous kale salad, which, Nathan acknowledges, is a recipe originally created by Dr. Andrew Weil, a partner in the restaurant.

There's nothing fancy or complicated about it, but the flavors are perfection. Raw kale can be tough and bitter, but the lemon juice in the dressing "cooks" the kale and tenderizes it. The olive oil (use a great one), the cheese (again, use the best you can afford), the red pepper flakes, and the bread crumbs give it a richness of flavor and texture that makes this salad wonderful not just when it's freshly made but also the day after. In fact, it may be the only leafy green salad I enjoy when it's wilted a bit.

This will be my summer go to. When I made it this week, I topped it with toasted walnuts. It's perfection on its own, but you can add nuts, dried fruit, other vegetables, roasted shrimp, fish, or other proteins to it for a more filling meal. Or enjoy it in all its splendid simplicity.

Thanks, Nathan! I'm looking forward to True Food Kitchen's opening this week!

True Food Kitchen Tuscan Kale Salad
From Nathan Coulon
(printable recipe)

4-6 cups kale, loosely packed, sliced leaves of Italian black (Lacinato, “dinosaur,” cavolo nero), midribs removed
Juice of 1 lemon
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, mashed
Salt & pepper, to taste
Hot red pepper flakes, to taste
2/3 cup grated Pecorino Toscano cheese (Rosselino variety if you can find it) or other flavorful grating cheese such as Asiago or Parmesan)
½ cup freshly made bread crumbs from lightly toasted bread

Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, and a generous pinch (or more to taste) of hot red pepper flakes.

Pour over kale in serving bowl and toss well. Add 2/3 of the cheese and toss again.

Let kale sit for at least 5 minutes. Add bread crumbs, toss again, and top with remaining cheese.

My home version...

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  1. Looks wonderful. You can get Tuscan Kale and Red Russian Kale, - both infinitely more tender and delicious than traditional curly kale, at Whole Foods. Quinoa added to kale salad is delish and makes it a little heartier.

  2. I never really enjoy salad either, but this one looks like an exception for me! I noticed the new True Food Kitchen in Fashion Valley too, and am excited to try it.

  3. This is a tasty salad indeed, but it should be shared only with a large note of caution. Raw kale interferes with thyroid function, suppressing it, a major health risk for anyone who's suffering from hypothyroidism ( which is, approx 1/5 of the female population). Google Goitrogens + Thyroid. While I am excited that chefs, drs, and nutritionists, are encouraging us to eat more raw vegetables, this is a significant health risk factor that really should be shared.

  4. Especially good with toasted pine nuts. Don't over do the pine nuts. Eating too many pine nuts will leave you with a metalic taste in your mouth, this is why they are not that great to snack on.