There comes a moment every summer when, after stuffing myself daily on tomatoes, peaches, berries, and watermelon, that I crave something, well, not so summery. When I need a break from all the sweet juiciness of the season, I realign myself with a kale salad. When thinly sliced, lacinato kale (also referred to as Tuscan or dinosaur kale) makes for a wonderfully assertive salad. It’s a healthy, invigorating meal or side dish that will recalibrate your taste buds.
Lacinato kale has a surprisingly tender texture and pleasantly bitter flavor. It benefits from a little bit of sweetness, whether that be a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar or some chopped fruit/tomatoes. Since this salad was about giving me a break from summer, I opted for chewy dried apricots, which also added great texture. To give even more substance and flavor, I added a good handful of chopped toasted walnuts and loads of shaved Comté cheese, although any nuts or cheese would work (think Parmesan, Pecorino or even cheddar). The result was a complex yet balanced salad that hit every note—chewy, crunchy, nutty, tart, sweet, bitter. It was a restorative yet delicious lunch for James and I, and for Ella, I finely chopped some of the kale and stuffed it inside a Comté grilled cheese sandwich.
While we often think of kale and fennel as cold weather vegetables, they’re abundant at my farmer’s market all summer. To prep the kale, I remove the thick stems, either by tearing off the leaves or by folding the leaves in half and running a knife along the stem to cut it out. I then thinly slice the leaves crosswise. Fennel’s flavor is mellowed when it’s shaved on my trusty mandoline, but you can also slice it thinly with a knife. It provides a refreshing counterpoint to the kale. Since the kale and fennel are so hardy, the salad holds up wonderfully in the fridge and is even delicious the next day.
It’s a reviving taste of winter in the middle of summer. Now I can face those mountains of tomatoes and peaches again…
Lacinato Kale Salad with Comté, Fennel, Walnuts & Apricots
- 1 small garlic clove , grated on microplane or smashed to a paste with a knife
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces (1 small bunch or ½ big bunch) lacinato (Tuscan) kale, center ribs removed
- 1 medium fennel bulb , shaved on mandoline or very thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup dried apricots , thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
- Chuck of Comté cheese for shaving
- In a small bowl, combine the garlic, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until combined.
- Thinly slice the kale crosswise into ribbons. Place the kale in a large salad bowl along with the fennel and apricots. Pour the dressing over the salad and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss well to coat. Let sit 5-10 minutes. Add the walnuts, and shave a good amount of Comté cheese over the top using a vegetable peeler. Toss again and taste. Add additional olive oil and/or salt and pepper as needed. Serve.