With this, I think I have finally decided I really really like kale salad. This is the second kale salad I have tried from Smitten Kitchen (the first was her kale and quinoa salad, which is still one of my favorite salads ever). I’m convinced Deb just knows what she’s doing when it comes to salads, because this one is also fantastic. It has delicious golden raisins gently simmered to plump them up, toasted walnuts, and freshly grated cheese (I used parmesan because I had it, she uses pecorino). And it all comes together with a lightly lemony dressing and amazing crunchy toasted panko breadcrumbs.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you must toast the walnuts and the panko! It makes such a big difference in their flavor and just takes the whole salad to the next level. It is also really easy.
The plumping of the raisins in the vinegar-water mixture also makes them irresistible and little bursts of sweetness against the nutty cheese.
If I haven’t convinced you yet – make this salad! You will not regret it.
Kale Salad with Toasted Walnuts & Parmesan
adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen
1/2 cup (105 grams or 3 3/4 ounces) walnut halves or pieces
1/4 cup (45 grams or 1 1/2 ounces) golden raisins
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs (15 grams or 1/2 ounce)
1 tiny clove garlic, minced or pressed
Coarse or kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch (about 14 ounces or 400 grams) tuscan kale (also known as black or lacinato kale; this is the thinner, flatter leaf variety), washed and patted dry
2 ounces (55 grams) parmesan (or pecorino) cheese, grated (1/2 cup total)
Juice of half a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Prepare walnuts: Heat oven to 350. Toast walnuts on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, tossing once. Let cool and coarsely chop. (There is also a way to cheat at toasting nuts: put them in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between each, for a total of about 2 minutes or until nuts begin to be fragrant.)
Prepare raisins: In a small saucepan over low heat, simmer white wine vinegar, water and raisins for 5 minutes, until plump and soft. Set aside in liquid.
Prepare crumbs: Toast bread crumbs, garlic and 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a skillet together with a pinch of salt until golden. Set aside.
Prepare kale: Trim heavy stems off kale and remove ribs. (Tearing out the ribs with your hands is the easiest way.) Stack sections of leaves and roll them into a tube, then cut them into very thin ribbons crosswise.
Assemble salad: Put kale in a large bowl. Add parmesan, walnuts and raisins (leaving any leftover vinegar mixture in dish), remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and lemon juice and toss until all the kale ribbons are coated. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt, pepper and some of the reserved vinegar mixture from the raisins, if needed. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving, if you can, as it helps the ingredients come together. Just before serving, toss with breadcrumbs and, if needed, a final 1 teaspoon drizzle of olive oil.