Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pocono Mountain inspired: Kale Salad With Roasted Peanut Dressing, A salad for your summer!!

Kale. It seems to be the new national salad obsession. I mean people a few years ago would never have eaten Kale in the quantities and the manner they eat it now. I mean Kale is a hearty, bitter green with a lot of fiber and a chewy consistency. It's super good for you and can be a great cooked green, but eaten raw seemed a little challenging to me.

Now Kale is not a new green, but American's are very greens challenged in general. I mean spinach seems to be the green that everyone knows. In the south we have the collard, which is cooked down into a pile of goodness with pork fat,salt, vinegar and sugar and served warm with a little spicy kick to them normally. But kale is not as popular nor was it marketed as a grocery staple by Green Giant back in the day, which was how a lot of America got it's veggie knowledge. But now Kale is everywhere. In restaurants in food magazines, in cooking shows in cook books. Kale seems to be the new green. And as such new types of Kale are coming to light. I knew of curly kale but  the italian variety Tuscan or Black Kale with a straighter leaf seems to have come into the spotlight as of late. Although it must be said that California has been growing it a long time now!

Now my first real contact of cooking with kale was actually in a pasta dish which my friend George Moy prepared for me one weekend on a retreat in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. You see another friend of mine bought a very cute house up in the Pocono Mountains about 2 hours from NYC.  Now weekend getaways are a huge deal when you live in the city. People love to get out and enjoy a little of what suburbanites and country folk know all the time. Namely, nature is amazing and we feel better when we a around it! So this house for several years became my get away. My friend rarely was there and I had free run of the place anytime I wanted. So I took people up for weekend retreats. There were some amazing dinners during those weekends, and food was central to the themes of those weekends. Well that and lots of drinking!

So Kale, well as said George was responsible for one of the meals during a weekend and made a simple  and classic pasta dish with Italian sausage, garlic, onions, kale, red pepper flakes and a touch of cream. SO simple and yet so good! Comfort food at it's best. But  here the curly kale with was cooked down  and was delicious with this mix of ingredients. Again not raw. I really did not encounter a Kale salad again until I had one prepared at work for me by the Chef for a client tasting. Very good salad, with white anchovies and almost a caesar like dressing. However I was still not a fan. Then I was asked to make a kale salad on request and found that it was probably one of the most challenging salads I had made. Why? Well mostly because while it came out nicely it didn't have the look or the taste I was really wanting. I used black kale and white anchovies much like the chef at work but found the salad too bitter and somehow not quite....well good!

However kale salads kept coming up in articles and in recipe blogs. So I decided I should try one again. And again I took my love of green on green salads and a curious taste combo as a starting point and I think it came out a winner. I have said it before but I really love monochromatic foods. I think they pop on a plate and give great eye appeal to whatever they are served with. So that having been said they also have to be interesting looking. Texture and color have to be involved, like with my cole slaw recipe, http://cookforrestcook.blogspot.com/2012/02/greener-version-of-cole-slaw.html, which I have been enjoying this summer a few times so far. My favorite chain restaurant has a Kale salad with a peanut dressing also using cabbage and that was a starting point. The other flavor profile I chose was from a habit of eating parmesan cheese flatbread with peanut butter on them. Now Parmesan Cheese and peanut butter might sound like a strange combo but believe you me it is awesome! So decided to use that as a base for my salad with kale and when it all came together the results were, well kinda spectacular! I also went back to using curly kale, in honor of my first encounter with it in the Poconos, and added in chopped green cabbage for that green on green look I like so much. A few nuts for crunch some parmesan cheese and dressing of roasted peanut oil and wham! You got a good salad!

So here it is folks a salad for your summer, Kale Salad ala Forrest! Enjoy Ya'll!

Kale Salad and Cabbage Salad with Roasted Peanut Vinaigrette
makes 4 good sized portions

For the dressing:

3/4 cup Roasted Peanut oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dry Mustard powder
1 teaspoon worchestershire sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 anchovies filets (optional)

Place in a food processor and mix well till combined.

For the salad:

 2 1/2 cups  curly kale ( not tuscan or black)  stems ribs cut out, leaves chiffonade chopped finely and then cut into three times really shredded ( Kale is tough so you want really fine small pieces but not confetti)
2 cups cups shredded and fine chopped green cabbage
12 mint leaves chiffonade chopped
1/4 of a bunch of fresh cilantro leaves and stems are fine finely chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped dry roasted peanuts no salt
1/2 cup whole dry roasted peanuts
1/2 cup  finely grated parmesan cheese plus 2 tablespoons


In a large bowl mix all greens with peanuts and cheese
Add dressing till nice and wet
Toss well
Let sit 5 to 10 mins
Serve in individual bowls or onto a large platter.

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