A young actress, and recent transplant to New Orleans, stirred up a controversy earlier this month when she was quoted in the New York Times saying, “New Orleans is not cosmopolitan. There’s no kale here.” Perhaps she said it for the publicity it’s brought her, as Facebook groups, the blogosphere and other new sites have been abuzz over the statement ever since. Ah, kale! That hyper-trendy vegetable… I can attest to the fact that one can certainly find kale in New Orleans, on restaurant menus (I had a quinoa – that other very trendy food item – and kale salad at Satsuma Cafe, mentioned int he same article, a few summers ago in New Orleans), at farmers’ markets and in homes, where some old time New Orleanians have used kale as one of several greens in their gumbo z’herbes for many years.
And in my New Orleans rooted family here in Los Angeles, kale has become a favorite salad of ours. One of my cousins is so attached to it, we now refer to it as Adele’s kale salad. It makes an appearance not only regularly at weekday meals, but at most larger family gatherings. In fact, one of the younger cousins expressed thanks for the change of pace at one dinner, when I brought a salad other than the kale salad. In her defense, Adele replied that she likes the kale salad because any leftover salad lasts until the next day. “There’s never any leftover” the young cousin groused.
Well, if there is never any leftover, it’s because the salad is really very good, regardless of how often we see it. That’s not to say Adele doesn’t vary her salad. She rotates between the traditional green curly kale, red kale, Tuscan kale, or even baby kale. She adds beets very often, sometimes avocados, diced red onions or shallots. I even saw her throw in pepperoncini, recently, when she had to stretch it for a larger group. There’s generally some kind of nut (she favors hazelnuts, but has also used pecans or walnuts) and cheese (she favors Israeli Feta, but I’ve also seen Parmesan and goat cheese) to garnish. So you can see, it’s quite a versatile salad. No recipe is needed, really, but I have provided a rough one here anyway.
Adele and I share a love of Israeli Feta, so it shows up in my version, and although I love the hazelnuts, too, I happened to use pistachios in this salad, because it’s what was available, and because they, too, are really, very good.
Adele’s Kale Salad
Per each serving:
- 1 healthy handful of either baby kale leaves, curly kale, torn into small pieces or Tuscan Kale, sliced into thin ribbons, about 1 ounce
- Enough extra virgin olive oil to thoroughly coat the greens, about 1.5- 2 tablespoons
- About 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 roasted beet, diced or cut into wedges
- A healthy sprinkling of diced red onions, about 1 tablespoon
- A healthy sprinkling of pistachios, or other toasted nut, about 1 tablespoon
- A half ounce or so of crumbled Israeli Feta, or other crumbled or grated cheese
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Toss the kale with the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt and let it sit for about 10 minutes, then toss in the lemon juice.
2. Add the beets and red onions, mixing slightly. Sprinkle the salad with the freshly ground pepper, and top it with the nuts and cheese. And you don’t even have to serve it immediately, because, you know- she makes kale salad because it lasts.