I've been planning of putting this recipe on this site for a while. In fact, its been sitting in my queue for months and have been waiting for just the right time to share it. The right time, I've obscurely decided, is now. Well, it's not totally obscure. We're heading into the very last week of February and then will be sliding into the month that boasts the first day of spring. Even though we have experienced unseasonably warm temperatures as of late, we don't have yet the produce that the new season brings: asparagus, ramps, fiddlehead, fava beans... I'm getting excited! But, until then, it's still winter and all the hardy produce that comes with it.
Not that I'm hating on winter produce. I do love root vegetables and hardy greens, but it's at this point, toward the end of the season, where I start to become a little antsy. When I start feeling this way (and I'm sure I'm among good company, right?), I pull through by making some of my all-time favorite, you just can't go wrong with, kind of dishes.
Queue my winter ceasar salad. I aim to achieve and preserve the qualities that make this a staple among so many households and restaurants -- which in my opinion are the crunchy freshness, the slight saltiness and the creamy richness -- and update it with nutritious high-quality seasonal ingredients.
Instead of the egg being used in the dressing, I serve on top of the salad (I of course break up the yolk and mix in that creamy goodness with the greens). Instead of croutons, I use whole wheat anchovy breadcrumbs so that you get a little crunch and saltiness in every bite. And instead of romaine lettuce, which doesn't come into season until late spring, I use ultra-nutritious and surprisingly tender Tuscan kale.
I make a big bowl of this and eat it with a good loaf of seedy bread and a bowl of yummy olive oil. And that's dinner. Believe me, it's satisfying enough to be a meal in itself. Unless I'm feeling especially hungry, and then I'll fry up two eggs per salad.
Tuscan Kale Ceasar Salad
Tuscan kale is also known as lacinato, black and dinosaur/dino kale. It's dark green in color, and has flatter, lumpier leaves that curly kale. It also tends to be more tender and is fabulous when served raw in salads.
For the breadcrumbs:
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 anchovy fillets, packed in olive oil
1/2 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
For the dressing:
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
pinch of crushed red pepper
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the rest of the salad:
2 big bunches Tuscan kale, course ribs and stems removed
2 tablespoons butter
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
To make the breadcrumbs, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the anchovy fillets and break them up using the back of a wooden spoon. Add in the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until toasted (about 2 minutes). Immediately remove the breadcrumbs from the skillet and place on a plate lined with a paper towel. Allow to cool.
Make the dressing by combining all of the ingredients except for the olive oil in small food processor. Gradually stream in the olive oil while pulsing. Season to taste with salt.
Take the de-ribbed kale leaves and slice into 1/4" thin strips by placing a few on top of each other, rolling tightly and chopping (see photo above). Toss with dressing.
Heat butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When the foam subsides, crack eggs into the pan with hot butter. Fry on one side until the egg white is set but the yolk is still runny.
Top the dressed kale with the fried eggs, anchovy breadcrumbs and a little extra grated Parmesan cheese.