You know that feeling of returning to your very own kitchen after a long time away from home?
Sometimes you’re hungry for something simple, fresh, and homemade, and this simple kale salad really hits the spot.
Last night, Tim, Rocco, and I returned home after a full week away, driving first to Ohio and then to Chicago to see family, celebrate my birthday, and give Rocco his first experience with a real road trip.
Our boy was born into a far-flung family that has to travel if we want to see each other, so we figured he may as well start learning what that’s like now, in the early days while he’s still an infant.
There were many delicious meals that we enjoyed on this trip. Perfectly grilled chicken and decadent chocolate mousse cake alongside Italian-style green beans and quinoa salad were served at Tim’s sister’s house. In Chicago, my mom made my favorite lemon chicken, and my brother baked me a chocolate birthday cake.
I don’t think I exerted more effort than scooping lovingly prepared food onto my plate throughout the whole vacation, so you can imagine what a luxury that was. And even on our epic 10-hour trip home yesterday, we were armed with a full bag of snacks and stops along the way, where again someone else was making our meal.
Now, we’re back. We bought groceries on the way home, and had tomato toasts for lunch.
Since I was still hungry, immediately afterwards I made this kale dish.
It’s not a new salad, and it’s not a salad that’s original to us. But at least in my personal experience, when you return to the kitchen after some time away, it’s the classics rather than the creative experiments that sound the best.
This is the kale salad that I could eat completely by myself, the one that I eat for pure enjoyment, not solely for the nutrients inside.
It’s covered with Pecorino and flavored with raw garlic, and the breadcrumbs throughout give it a nice texture and crunch.
Believe me, if you or someone you love is on the kale-salad fence, thinking it sounds like something you’d eat when you’re dieting and that it’s not really good for much else, this is the version to swing you firmly to the pro-kale side.
Sometimes I crave it more than ice cream.
Like today. All I’ve been wanting is a big plate of greens, and Kroger’s $0.99 organic kale sale made it too easy to gather my supplies and make a big bowlful.
So behold, the kale recipe I have probably recommended to you in person already, if kale salad has ever come up in conversation.
The instructions below will teach you the way I always make it, which is highly taste dependent and extremely flexible, but always, always, savor-every-bite good.
Try it my way, then make it your own. See how many eyes light up when you serve it, and how many people you can convert to loving it as much as I do.Print
When you need a light side dish, this simple kale salad is sure to satisfy. Tossed with lemon and nutty Pecorino, these greens are a win.
- 1/4 French baguette, sliced, toasted, and rough chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 medium garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 6 cups thinly sliced kale leaves, ribs removed (about 1 bunch)
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
- In a food processor, add the chopped toasted bread, garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and pulse until you get the texture of fine breadcrumbs.
- In a large bowl, add the kale, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Using your fingertips, gently massage the oil and salt into the kale to soften it. Add the garlic breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons of the Pecorino.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt, lemon juice, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the Pecorino. Drizzle the dressing over the kale, and toss to combine until the salad is thoroughly coated.
- Divide among 4 plates and garnish with the remaining Pecorino.
Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Kale
- Method: No-Cook
- Cuisine: Vegetarian
Keywords: kale salad, kale, Pecorino, lemon, garlic
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Toast the Bread and Pulse with the Garlic
Slice the bread into a few pieces, and then toast until golden brown. Rough-chop the toasted bread and place it in your food processor with the garlic cloves, and a pinch of salt.
Pulse the mixture until you get the texture of fine breadcrumbs.
You can use these crumbs as is in the salad or, for more texture and crunch, spray or drizzle them with oil and toast until golden brown.
Step 2 – Massage the Kale and Add the Breadcrumbs and Cheese
In a large salad bowl, add the kale, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and a pinch of salt.
Using your fingertips, gently massage the oil and salt into the leaves to soften them.
If you use a more tender variety of kale (like Lacinato or Dino), it won’t need as much massaging as standard curly kind. You can learn more about the different varieties and how to grow your own on our sister site, Gardener’s Path.
Add the garlic breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons of the Pecorino.
Step 3 – Make the Lemon Vinaigrette
In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt, lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the Pecorino.
Whisk together until emulsified to make the dressing.
Step 4 – Toss with the Vinaigrette
Drizzle the dressing over the leaves and toss it with tongs to combine, until everything is thoroughly coated.
Step 5 – Plate and Garnish
Divide among 4 plates and garnish with the remaining Pecorino. You can also drizzle a few drops of extra virgin olive oil on top and garnish with additional freshly ground pepper.
Since kale doesn’t get overly saturated by dressing, as other softer lettuces do, you can prepare and toss this dish several hours in advance. Just be sure to leave out the crumbs until you’re ready to serve, so they don’t get soggy.
All Hail the Kale
It’s no secret that kale is a bounty of nutrition, but that doesn’t mean it has to taste bland. Zesty lemon and salty Pecorino brighten up the flavors, and the garlicky breadcrumbs add a sharp crunch.
Pack this powerhouse dish with protein to turn it into a main meal, or make some morning-time magic by placing a fried egg on top.
Out of ideas to meet your veggie quota for the week? These sensational salad recipes are the motivation you need:
- The Best Tofu You’ve Ever Had with a Charred Green Bean Salad
- Triple Berry Salad with Sauteed Shallots and Walnuts in a Cayenne-Honey Vinaigrette
- Vegan Soyrizo Taco Salad
- Arugula Dijon Salad with Figs and Pistachios
Greens and cheese are a pairing I can always get down with. What are your favorite duos?
Parmesan and romaine, like in a classic Caesar salad? Goat cheese and arugula? Gorgonzola and iceberg?
Share your favorite combos in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on August 30, 2015. Last updated: October 31, 2022 at 11:35 am. With additional writing and editing by Fanny Slater and Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.