Hi friends, let's talk about kale caesar! For starters, caesar salad is my absolute favorite medium upon which to enjoy greens because it's salty, creamy, cheesy and packed with umami. This salad has everything you want (cheese, bread, greens) and absolutely nothing you don't. Let's make a homemade dressing (that literally takes 4 minutes to pull together) with secret ingredients galore that take this kale caesar from good to great. Also, you'll find my lazy girl's guide to croutons, and some tricks for improving all of your salads from here on out!
What kind of kale are you using?
We are using lacinto (aka dinosaur or Tuscan) kale for this salad. I prefer it's texture and flavor, and find it a lot sweeter than regular kale. We are going to remove the stems and chop the leaves roughly.
How do you de-stem the kale?
I use a technique that's very simple. Hold the leaf upside down. Tear the leaf from the stem just a bite (on both sides). Now pull the leaves back and separate! It's kind of like pulling thyme off the stem, if you've done that before.
Why do you recommend a salad spinner or "drying" your kale?
The worst enemy to a good salad is water, because it will turn your leaves soggy instead of crisp, and it will dilute the flavor we worked so hard to achieve in our dressing. For that reason, I highly recommend the minimal investment of a salad spinner. I use mine ALL the time, and my baby also loves to play with it, so win-win. If you don't have a salad spinner, lay all of your washed leaves out onto kitchen towels and pat them down well. Make sure they are super dry before dressing! This is critical, people!
Why do you "massage" your kale?
Kale is a tough, leafy green and needs a little TLC. If you've ever gotten a kale salad with un-massaged kale, you know right away. It's really hard to chew, and it makes you feel like a horse with cud. No bueno. Very simple solve to this problem is to put some lemon juice on your kale before dressing and massage the leaves aggressively until they begin to soften. It should only take a few minutes.
Let's discuss dressing. What are your secret ingredients for this kale caesar salad?
This dressing is insanely good and an absolute flavor bomb. Here's what makes it so good: egg yolk, caper juice, and anchovy paste. The egg yolk (when whisked with oil) provides the ultimate, creamy texture. The caper juice gives a salty, briny flavor that can't be beat. Anchovy paste is super deep and funky in flavor, and don't worry, it won't make your salad taste fishy.
What kind of oil should I use?
While I almost always use extra-virgin olive oil, for this recipe, I recommend using something neutral or else the olive oil will overpower the other flavors. You can use canola, vegetable, or avocado.
How do you incorporate the oil?
Very, very slowly. Drop by drop. This is basically the method for making mayonnaise, which is to whisk oil into egg yolk (and other things) super slow to get an emulsified sauce. Just use one hand to add oil little by little and use the other to whisk ferociously. Make sure you're using a measuring cup or bowl big enough to comfortably whisk!
What about the cheese?
We are using Italian Parmeggiano-Reggiano, but domestic Parmesan will do in a pinch- just make sure you get the most aged version you can find. We'll be shaving the cheese into really long ribbons. They will break up as we mix!
How do you make croutons from scratch?
Plot twist! I don't. I find the task of slicing bread and preheating the oven and blah blah blah way too much work for so little reward. All you have to do is toast two slices of good sourdough bread well, and then cut into tiny cubes. The best part of a crouton is when it absorbs some of the dressing and is just a wee bit soggy, right? If you have store bought croutons you like, feel free to use those.
Why do you recommend letting it sit for 15-20 minutes before serving?
Unlike a traditional romaine leaf, kale needs a little bit of time to break down, release some moisture, and absorb the dressing. Same goes for those croutons. Treat this salad like a good steak and give it a minute to catch it's breath before you dig in. It will be worth the wait, I promise.
How long will this kale caesar salad last in the fridge?
This salad will last in the fridge for a day or so. If you'd like to make it in advance (for a party or something) then just make the dressing, slice your kale + shave your parm ahead of time. Before serving, massage, dress, and make croutons! Enjoy.Print
kale caesar made from scratch with homemade caesar dressing, ribbons of parmesan and easy homemade croutons
- 2 bunches lacinto kale (de-stemmed)
- 1/4 lb. Parmeggiano-Reggiano cheese (shaved into long strips )
- 2-3 slices sourdough bread (I like Bread Alone brand)
- 1/2 lemon ((juice only))
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp anchovy paste (or 1-2 small anchovies, mashed in a mortar + pestle)
- 1 tbsp caper juice ((just pour out liquid from your caper jar))
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup neutral oil (such as canola, vegetable or avocado)
- 1/3 tsp sea salt (good quality)
- fresh cracked black pepper
- To begin, remove the stems from your kale (how-to above). Then roughly chop your kale into bite size pieces. Wash really well, then dry using a salad spinner or lots of dish towels. Make sure your kale is very dry.
- Squeeze juice of half lemon over kale, and using two hands, massge. Basically you want to mush the kale with your hands and fingers to break down some of those fibers and make it easier to eat/chew. You should do this for 2 minutes-ish.
- Once the kale is massaged, set it aside and let it hang out. Let's make our dressing.
- First, whisk together egg yolk, caper juice, anchovy paste, dijon, salt, and pepper. Then, slowly, very slowly, stream in oil bit by bit. You want to pretend you are making mayo here and emulsify the oil. Use one hand to stream in oil and the other hand to whisk ferociously. Once all of the oil has been added, your dressing should have some nice body to it. Taste it. It will be really salty, but that's okay. Set aside.
- Using a vegetable peeler, shave Parmeggiano-Reggiano into long, thin, strips. You can do this right into the kale bowl.
- Toast your bread slices really well. Then cut bread into small cubes (easier to chew this way) and sprinkle over salad. Try to leave most of the crumbs behind.
- Finally, pour dressing over kale, parm, and croutons. Using your hands or a fork and spoon, toss really well. Let the salad rest for 15 minutes, then serve!
- Category: Salads
- Method: No-Cook
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: caesar, caesar salad, kale salad, kale caesar, homemade caesar salad, homemade caesar dressing, homemade croutons
Want more kale salad? Try this one with a lemon-tahini dressing!