A Simple Kale Salad with Garlic, Lemon, and Pecorino

favorite kale salad

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 family that has to travel to see its family, so we figured he may as well start learning what that’s like now, in the early days, when he’s all of just two months old. The way there was broken up by a night in Ohio, at Tim’s sister’s house, where we ate perfectly grilled chicken and decadent chocolate mousse cake alongside Italian-style green beans and quinoa salad. In Chicago, my mom made my favorite lemon chicken and my brother baked me chocolate birthday cake, and there were a lot of days of Three Twins ice cream. I don’t think I exerted more effort than scooping prepared food onto my plate the whole vacation, so you can imagine what a luxury that was. And even on our epic 10-hour trip home yesterday (because, new parent lesson!, road trips get longer when they’re interrupted every two to three hours by an infant’s feeding sessions), we were armed with a full bag of snacks and yet still got to also eat at Chipotle, where again someone else was making our meal. The fast food place was right in the middle of college town Champaign, Illinois, where kids waited in line with their parents or friends from last school year, and while we waited with them, watching them with their sorority t-shirts and book bags, I felt sure I should be registering for classes too, because wasn’t I just 18, even while I held a snoozy child in my arms.

Anyway, we’re back. Rocco cooed with pure delight when we set him in his room again, smiling non-stop for at least 20 minutes while Tim and I unpacked suitcases and went through a week’s worth of mail. He’s nine weeks old now, officially in his third month of life, weighing in at twice his birth weight and killing us with us leg rolls and happy sounds. This morning we loaded him up in the car seat all over again to take him to church, and our little champ stayed fairly content through the service, at least once Tim took him in his arms. Sometimes I look at him and think, Kid! You’re more patient than I am! And every memory of a meltdown starts to seem so comparably small.

We bought groceries on the way home and had tomato toasts for lunch, and, since I was still hungry, immediately afterwards I made this kale salad. It’s not a new salad, and it’s not a salad original to us, but, at least in my personal experience, when you return to the kitchen after some time away, it’s the classics and not the creative that sound the best.

Italian kale salad-2

This is the kale salad that I could eat completely by myself, the one that I eat for pure enjoyment and not 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 not for much else, this is the version to swing you firmly to the pro-kale-salad 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 make. So behold, here on the blog at last, the kale salad I have probably recommended to you in person already if kale salad has ever come up:

Italian kale salad

My Favorite Kale Salad
or, Italian Kale Salad, Adapted from 101 Cookbooks, Introduced to Us by Ashley

This recipe is based off the version on Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks blog. Her measurements are more exact so if you’re concerned about getting the right feel, check out her site here. Below is the way I always make it, which is highly taste dependent and extremely flexible but always, always, savor-every-bite good.

best kale salad

2 peeled garlic cloves (this is if you love garlic like we do. if you don’t, try part of one clove instead)
A few pieces of old bread, toasted (Italian, sourdough, a baguette, whatever you like)
1 bunch of kale (I personally use green kale, red kale, Tuscan kale or whatever other kale is on sale and they all work well), leaves torn from stems into small pieces
A heaping pile of grated Pecorino cheese (Parmesan would also work)
Juice of half a lemon
Olive oil, to taste
Salt, to taste

Throw the garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse until chopped fine. Scoop out into a large bowl. Then throw the toasted bread into the same unwashed food processor and pulse until the texture of fine breadcrumbs. Add to bowl of garlic. Add torn kale, Pecorino, juice of half a lemon and a few glugs of olive oil. Massage with your fingertips until everything is combined and the kale is well coated. Salt to taste. Feel free to adjust proportions as you like. Enjoy!

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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.

15 thoughts on “A Simple Kale Salad with Garlic, Lemon, and Pecorino”

  1. Way to go on surviving your first road trip! We’ve done a few with Ayla in the past months and they are always quite an adventure. 😉
    This salad looks amazing, girl!! It’s going on my menu for this week, for sure. Thanks for sharing!

    • You came over just as I was editing it! I have such an addiction to blog makeovers. It’s a real struggle. Thanks for noticing this one and liking it. : )

  2. Congrats on surviving the first family road trip! Our first family road trip took place when Calvin was only four days old and we drove on maybe two hours of sleep from Kansas where he was born to our home in Illinois. Calvin slept through the whole thing! Fast forward almost nine months when we drove a little bit further to North Dakota to visit my sister and the poor thing screamed most of the trip. We’ll see how he does next week when we attempt a five hour trip to the north woods of Wisconsin to visit family. I’m sure in a few years when our boys are complaining about being bored we’ll miss these “easier” road trips. 🙂

  3. Whenever I eat anything with bread crumbs or croutons I think, “This is luxury.” Maybe it’s from our intense grain-free days. The benefit is that now anything with bread crumbs in it is immediately transformed for me. Not that I need to be talked into kale salad. 🙂

  4. sounds like a fantastic first road trip for little rocco! and bravo for introducing him to the travel scene. that can’t be easy as new parents. i adore heidi swanson, and i’ve made this kale salad several times as well. the more cheese the better, and hefty doses of olive oil. so satisfying. xo

  5. This salad is just everything that I want. Sometimes I think there’s a temptation to throw everything including the kitchen sink on a salad (I’m totally guilty of this) and the simple deliciousness of a plate of greens gets lost.

    PS I’ve been meaning to tell you that we’re going to be in Chicago for a week or so at the end of Dec if there’s a chance you might be visiting your family then or just if you have any advice about how two people from a relatively mild country can cope with Chicago winter weather…

    • Kathryn! Yes! I am going to email you right now to see if we can work out a meetup. Yay! also yes! about the simple salad. so true!

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