Ever since I tried Mark Bittman’s recipe for black kale and black olive salad a few years ago, I’ve been a big fan of kale salad.
So when I was invited to try out one of Aida Mollenkamp’s new recipes for her “Keys to the Kitchen” Virtual Dinner Party, I kept gravitating to the one for raw kale salad with heirloom tomatoes and roasted cashews.
Here in Seattle we were lucky enough to bask in summer weather through the end of September, which means I’m still enjoying tomatoes from my mother-in-law’s garden.
I was going to a dinner party, and I wanted to share some of these tomatoes with my friends. I also had a huge 4-pound bag of kale that I needed to use up. It was the perfect opportunity to make Aida’s recipe.
The key to making a great raw kale salad is to “massage” the kale. I’m not talking about an aromatherapy massage with wind chimes and pan flute music. After adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 ½ teaspoons salt, go for it and give your kale a vigorous deep tissue massage for about 5 minutes. Squeeze it in your hands and then release. The goal is to break up the fibrous nature of the greens. (Making a kale salad is a great stress reliever.)
Because it was what I had, I used curly kale, but I’ve found that I prefer lacinato kale aka “dinosaur kale” for raw kale salads. The texture is better, and the dark emerald color of this variety of kale is gorgeous.
In addition to kale and tomatoes, Aida’s salad recipe calls for carrots and chopped green onions. I always forget about the simple technique of using a vegetable peeler to make pretty ribbons out of carrots. Even if you don’t have the best knife skills, your salad can still look elegant.
I love the dressing for this salad, which is a combination of 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of grated orange zest. Let this soak into the kale to further soften the greens.
Finish the salad with 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds and 1 cup roasted, salted cashews.
I felt that this bright, tangy salad was both a good counterpoint and complement to the beef stew and roasted potatoes served at the dinner party. It kept the meal from being too heavy, and the orange dressing paired well with the beef.
Aida writes that the recipes in her cookbook are “based on a solid technique that, once mastered, is like a good jazz song, begging to be riffed upon.”
In “Keys to the Kitchen,” she recommends some simple “riffs” after each recipe to spark new ideas.
For the kale salad, Aida suggests using diced roasted beets or boiled potatoes when tomatoes aren’t in season. I thought about throwing in some quinoa to make the salad a meal on its own, serving it with a side of grilled tofu, or perhaps wrapping some in a tortilla with black beans.
When I first saw “Keys to the Kitchen,” my inner honor student was thrilled by how much it looks like a textbook. And while it is meant to be an instructive reference guide, Aida infuses it with the joy of being confident enough in the kitchen to be creative.
Buy your copy of “Keys to the Kitchen” from one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Anthropologie, Barnes & Noble, Chronicle Books, and check out these bloggers participating in Aida’s Virtual Dinner Party:
Bev Cooks – Dixie Caviar – Edible Living – Family Fresh Cooking – Girl Hunter – Heather Christo Cooks – Hip Foodie Mom – Hola Jalapeño – Ladles and Jellyspoons – Love & Lemons – Matt Bites – Shutterbean – Sprouted Kitchen –Southern Girls Kitchen – Stir and Scribble – Tartlet Sweets – The Culinary Life– Three Many Cooks – Turntable Kitchen – Two Peas and Their Pod – Vanilla Garlic – Weelicious – What’s Gaby Cooking – With Style & Grace