Kale was everywhere in the places I visited in the US recently and I made this salad when I was visiting friends in Okemos, Michigan. I bought a bunch of kale at a Farmers’ Market – it was local, in season, very fresh, and so why not?
When I make any salad I think of flavours and ingredients that I like and have used in other recipes. For example I have always enjoyed the flavours that go with sautéed spinach – pine nuts and dried grapes, usually currants.
With the addition of a little nutmeg this was originally a Tuscan/ Ligurian dish. Pine nuts and dried fruit are also found in Sicilian cooking but this dish is not Sicilian. Various Italian regions have adapted this dish to suit their culinary cultures, for example some Southern Italians may add chilli, in some regions they may add chopped anchovies that have been dissolved by sautéing in a little extra virgin olive oil. Broccoli or other leafy greens (like cavolo nero – Tuscan cabbage – or kale) are cooked in this way also.
Although in Michigan I could have cooked the kale in the same way as I would have cooked spinach and eaten it as a cold cooked salad, I chose to use raw kale.
This was the US after all and there were plenty of cranberries in the pantry (they weren’t too sweet) so I chose these instead of currants. If I had dried, sour cherries (used in Middle Eastern cooking) I may have used those. Dried figs sliced thinly could have been OK as well.
In the photo, just to show their sizes, from left to right: top – dried sour cherries, muscatels, below – currants, cranberries.
If I had no pine nuts, I may have used another kind of nut, for example walnuts, hazelnuts or pepitas (green kernels from pumpkin seeds).
On another occasion I may use walnut oil or hazelnut oil instead of extra virgin olive oil or perhaps a mixture of two.
I often use grated lemon peel as an ingredient in either a raw dish or in my cooking (quite Sicilian) so I also added this to the salad.
This salad is so simple that I almost feel embarrassed writing about it. No amounts for the ingredients are necessary, make it to suit your tastes.
For the photo of the ingredients used in the salad, I have used baby kale leaves.
Kale, spring onions, pine nuts (lightly toasted), dried small fruit: such as dried grapes – currants, sultanas, raisins, or cranberries or dried cherries.
Dressing: extra virgin olive oil, grated lemon peel from 1 lemon and juice, a pinch of nutmeg, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Strip the leaves of the kale, removing the tough ribs/ stalks then tear it into small pieces or cut it finely. Slice the spring onions thinly. Combine kale and onions and add the nuts and dried fruit. Mix all of the dressing ingredients together and dress the salad.
This salad is quite suitable as a starter and of course, it can be part of a main course.