Living in California has changed my eating habits forever.
When I think back to what I put in my body 20 years ago I cringe. I was living and working in Manhattan. I ate lunch out, dinner out. There were vegetables, but not many. I remember a lot of french fries and Chinese food. I was learning to bake thanks to my friend Judith, so there was cake. And I was young, so there was drink - not excessive, but not zero.
If you had told me back then that in my midlife I would be craving kale salad, I would have laughed so hard I peed.
Maybe it's the California weather. Maybe it's the abundance of beautiful produce. Maybe it's my desire not to weigh 300 pounds. I'm not sure of the reason, but the fact remains: Many nights I come home from work and all I want to eat is kale salad.
This is my current favorite. Tuscan kale (also known as dinosaur kale), radishes and avocados are available year-round. Lemon keeps things light. And if you haven't discovered smoked salt yet, run to your nearest gourmet store. I bought some Pacific alderwood smoked salt at Marche Provisions when I visited Eugene last fall for the Oregon Truffle Festival - it smells like a fireplace and adds an essence I can only describe as "lumberjack" to anything it adorns. But any smoked salt will do, and you should find some readily at your favorite foodie supply shop.
Kale salad with radishes
This salad is surprisingly light and refreshing despite being based on kale, which many people consider too bitter and sturdy for salads. The tricks: slicing the greens ribbon-thin and letting them sit and wilt for a bit in the lemon juice and salt.
- 1 bunch Tuscan kale (also called dinosaur kale)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- large pinch of smoked salt
- 1 bunch radishes
- 1 large ripe avocado
- 1 cup chopped snow pea leaves (optional)
- 1 cup croutons
Wash the kale well and remove the tough stem from each leaf. Stack the dark-green leaves and cut into very thin ribbons (chiffonade) using a very sharp knife. Put the kale ribbons into a serving bowl and add the lemon juice, olive oil and smoked salt. Massage the salad with your fingers for a minute or two - this will help wilt the kale. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the salad.Slice the radishes paper-thin (a mandoline helps) and add to the salad. Cut the avocado into quarters, peel off the skin, cut the flesh into 1-inch chunks, and add those to the bowl as well. If you're using the snow pea leaves, add them now - any earlier and they'll get too wilted.Put the croutons in a zip-top bag and bash them a few times with a rolling pin or something with a little heft to it. Sprinkle the crumbs over the salad. Toss the whole thing gently, then taste, adding more olive oil or smoked salt for balance. Serve immediately.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings