Think you don't like kale salad? Think again! This delicious Tuscan Kale Salad with crisp, buttery bread crumbs, salty, savory Parmesan and a fabulous lemon basil dressing will have the most adamant kale hater requesting seconds!
Several weeks ago, Scott and I had dinner at our son, Nick's house. I brought some steaks to grill and our daughter-in-law, Lindsay took care of the rest of the meal which involved a nice salad and a round of warm focaccia bread. The entire meal was delicious but I was quite taken with Lindsay's fabulous Tuscan Kale Salad. It was a simple salad but SO good with a lemony, garlicky dressing, crisp buttery bread crumbs and lots of salty Parmesan cheese.
When I mentioned how delicious the salad was, Lindsay said "It's your recipe!". Huh? I'd totally forgotten about this wonderful copycat salad recipe I'd come up with 5 years ago, after enjoying a great kale salad at Jonathan Waxman's Adele's restaurant in Nashville, TN. Lindsay helped refresh my memory on how to make this salad and I've been making it for guests and family ever since!
It's one of those salads that no matter how much you make, there's never much left in the bowl at the end of the meal. Recently we had friends for dinner and, as one of the guests was taking a second helping of salad, he said, "This salad is wonderful and I don't even like kale!". Everyone at the table agreed and most of them had another helping. The same thing happens every time I serve this Tuscan Kale Salad.
What is Tuscan Kale?
Although you can use any kale in this salad (although you might have to change the name), I love that Lindsay used Tuscan Kale which has been grown in Tuscany (hence the name) for centuries and is one of the traditional ingredients of classic Italian dishes like minestrone and ribollita.
Tuscan kale is also known as dinosaur kale, black kale, cavolo nero kale and/or lacinato kale. It has long spear-shaped leaves, a pretty pebbled appearance and a dark, somewhat mottled green color. The Kitchn describes the flavor as "deep and earthy, less bitter than curly leafed kale with an almost-nutty sweetness".
I love that it's also more tender than traditional curly leaf kale. And if you tear or chop the leaves nice and small and dress this Tuscan Kale Salad 30 minutes before serving, the leaves get saturated with the delicious dressing and wilt just a bit so there's no need to massage as is necessary with lots of other kale salads.
I call this Tuscan Kale Salad "the little black dress" of the salad scene. Why? Well, it's fabulous as a side dish with grilled steak, chicken, pork or salmon but it also pairs nicely with a burger or panini. You can enjoy it as a hearty, healthy vegetarian meal or top it with some lean chicken or shrimp.
Just like the iconic little black dress of the fashion world, you can dress it up, own or anywhere in between! In the warmer months when corn is fresh and abundant a scatter of cut-off-the-cob kernels and a sweet crunch. Plumped raisins, currants and dried cranberries are also delicious. See what I mean? It goes so well with just about everything!
I meant to post this Tuscan Kale Salad recipe several years ago, right after I first tried the delicious rendition at Adele's. But it got pushed back by so many other recipe ideas that have filled the culinary spaces in my brain. So thanks, Lindsay, for reminding me of this wonderful recipe... you never forget and definitely help keep me straight!
Cafe Tips for making this Tuscan Kale Salad
- Be sure to dress the salad in advance and tear (or slice) the kale leaves nice and small for a nice tender salad.
- If you can't find Tuscan Kale (check out all the other names it might be called in the post above), you could also use regular kale. In fact, that's what was used in the salad at Adele's. If you can find Tuscan kale though, by all means, use it, as it's sweeter and more tender than regular kale and makes a really pretty salad.
- Trader Joe's sells Tuscan kale in big bags, all washed and ready to go. You'll still need to tear it up a bit and remove any large stems but it does make putting this salad together much easier.
- Feel free to adjust the dressing ingredients according to your taste. Make it as written then take a taste. Add more lemon juice, garlic, anchovy paste or salt to your preference.
- Don't skip the anchovy paste. I'm not a fan of anchovies (in any way, shape or form) but love this dressing as there's absolutely no "fishy" flavor. Anchovy paste is a flavor enhancer and adds a nice savory, umami flavor to the dressing. You can find anchovy paste at most grocery stores in the same area as the canned tuna. It comes in an airtight tube with a right screw-on cap so it will last for several months in the refrigerator.
- In lieu of panko crumbs, you can use several slices of a day-old baguette. Tear the slices into two or three smaller pieces and pulse with a food processor until the bread has turned into small crumbs. Measure ½ cup then proceed as directed in the recipe for the panko crumbs. (The baguette crumbs will take a little longer to get nice and crisp.)
- I often make a double batch of the crumbs and store them in an airtight container. The next time I want to make this salad, the dressing is already done.
- I really like these coarser panko crumbs mad by J-Basket.
- After the dressing is done, taste it and add more lemon, salt, pepper, to taste.
- As mentioned above, in the summer months, when fresh corn is at its peak, I like to add 2-3 ears of cut-off-the-cob-corn to the salad for a delicious variation. To make things easy, I just cook the corn in the microwave. For two ears, I set it to cook for 5 minutes. For 3 ears, 7 minutes. Let it cool until you can handle it then cut off the bottom 2 inches, peel back the husk and silk and cut off the kernels.
- You might have a little more dressing than you need for this salad. Pass extra at the table and use whatever's left on another salad. It’s also wonderful drizzled on grilled chicken or shrimp.
Thought for the day:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
What we're listening to for inspiration:
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- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup panko crumbs you can also use a piece of a small baguette, see notes
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 small clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt more to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves loosely packed
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 12 ounces Tuscan kale also known as black, dinosaur or lacinato kale, (1 large or two medium-size bunches)
- ½-¾ cup shaved or grated parmesan cheese
Melt butter in a medium-size sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the panko (or baguette) crumbs and stir until the crumbs are well coated. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently until the crumbs are crisp and a nice golden color. Set aside.
Combine the lemon juice, garlic, mustard, anchovy paste, salt, pepper and basil leaves in the bowl of a blender or food processor (I like to use a mini food processor.) Blend or process until smooth. Add the olive oil and pulse a few more times. Set aside.(You can also use an immersion blender. Just place all ingredients except the olive oil in a large measuring cup. Use the immersion blender to blend until smooth. Add the olive oil and blend for a few more seconds.)
Wash the kale in cold water and drain well. Wrap the kale in a clean kitchen towel or several thicknesses of paper towels and squeeze gently to dry. (You may need to do this several times to get the kale nice and dry. You could also use a salad spinner.)
Grab a kale leaf with one hand. Running your fingers down the stem, strip the leaf free and discard the stem. You can also use a knife and slice the leaf off of the stem on either side.
Tear the kale into small pieces, (about the size a quarter, no bigger!), again discarding any tough veins and transfer to a large salad bowl. (I think it’s prettier to tear the kale by hand and you can remove the smaller veins but you can also use a knife to cut the kale into narrow strips.)
About 30-40 minutes before serving, drizzle 4-5 tablespoons of the dressing over the salad and toss with two large forks or a tongs until all the leaves are nicely coated. Set aside.
Right before serving, toss the kale again then sprinkle the panko crumbs and the parmesan (also the corn, if using) over the top of the salad. Serve and enjoy.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips.