Thursday, May 1, 2014

Kale Caesar Salad with Smoky Bacon and Cashews - A Fresh New Spin on a Classic


Everyone and I do mean everyone in the food world these days is talking about kale. Chefs and bloggers feature it because it’s one of one of the healthiest foods around and it is considered a super food. For example, my friend Kate at A Spoonful of Thyme recently featured a couple of delicious recipes using fresh kale including baked kale chips and a rustic cannellini kale and sausage soup. All of a sudden I began to feel like the last person on earth to jump on the kale bandwagon and frankly, I felt a little left out.

When I spotted a Kale Caesar salad on the menu at Cru, one of our favorite new restaurants in Fort Myers, Florida, I plunged in and ordered it as a first course with my steak. It was served on ice cold plates and was out-of-this-world amazing - I ended up eating every bite. I was so pleased with myself that I had finally taken the plunge and tried kale. Now I’m a fan along with the rest of the world.


Caesar salads are one of my favorite salads and I’ve been making my own Caesar vinaigrette for years. I found that you don’t need to use a raw egg to achieve the creaminess in the dressing if you add a little good mayonnaise to the vinaigrette. One of the tips to a great Caesar salad is not using just any old Parmesan cheese but buying real Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy, freshly grated at the last moment of course. Anchovies are a must in Caesars and instead of using the paste, I use those packed in oil and mash them into a paste myself with a fork. In my opinion they are far superior to the paste in a tube and it only takes a few minutes to mash them yourself. Again, buy the best anchovies you can find.

You’ll see in the recipe below I say add "to taste” and encourage you to taste as you go. This is so important when making anything, especially a salad. Taste, taste, and taste again & add what’s needed. Tasting is the single most important thing you can do and it separates a good dish from a mediocre one. This is so, so important. If you get nothing else out of what I’ve written, please remember to taste as you go and adjust when necessary.

We thought serving the Caesar on ice cold plates as Cru did made a big difference in the entire experience, but it’s up to you. I believe you’ll really enjoy Cru’s take on a Caesar salad with kale, smoky bacon and crunchy cashews.  If you don’t think it’s a Caesar without the croutons, by all means make some homemade ones. It’s super easy and takes only a few minutes, link to my favorite homemade crouton recipe here.


Kale Caesar Salad with Smoky Bacon and Cashews
Inspired by Cru Restaurant, Fort Myers, Florida – serves 2
Printable recipe

4 handfuls of organic curly kale, stems removed and torn into small bite size pieces (or chopped)
¼ cup chopped roasted cashew nuts (I used a combination of salted and unsalted), more if desired
2 slices thick smoked bacon (I used applewood), cut into lardons and cooked until crispy
My Carolina Kitchen’s Caesar Vinaigrette, recipe follows
½ cup freshly grated Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Maldon sea salt, or any good coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 salad plates, chilled in the freezer

In a large salad bowl, toss together the kale, cashews and bacon lardons. Add about half of My Carolina Kitchen’s Caesar Vinaigrette and toss to combine with the salad ingredients. Taste and add more vinaigrette as needed. Add the grated cheese and toss again. Season with a little coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and taste once again for seasonings, adjusting as necessary. Serve immediately on ice cold plates. You may have a little left-over vinaigrette and if so, refrigerate for later use.


My Carolina Kitchen’s Caesar Vinaigrette (made without raw eggs)
Sam Hoffer, My Carolina Kitchen - serves 2 – 3, easily doubled or tripled
Printable recipe

1 tablespoon good red wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons best quality extra virgin olive oil
3 to 4 drops of Worcestershire sauce, or more to taste
1 tablespoon good mayonnaise, preferably homemade or Hellman’s (please don’t use Miracle Whip, it’s too sweet)
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard, or to taste
3 oil packed anchovy fillets, drained well & brought to room temperature if refrigerated (or more if you really like anchovies)
½ teaspoon pressed garlic, or more to taste

In a jar with a tight fitting lid, add vinegar and olive oil and shake well to combine. Add the Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard and shake again to incorporate.

In a large salad bowl mash the anchovies with a fork until they form a paste, then add pressed garlic and mash once more with the fork to incorporate the garlic into the anchovies. Add the oil and vinegar mixture from the jar and, with a whisk, incorporate the olive oil mixture with the anchovies and garlic until you have a nice creamy vinaigrette. If you are not using right away, store the vinaigrette in the refrigerator in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Bring to room temperature when ready to use.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday & Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.   
Have a great weekend everyone.


41 comments:

  1. Hi Sam, I love kale and am looking for a recipe different from the salad I find myself making time after time. The twist of bacon and cashews in brilliant. I may make this tonight with a steak.
    As always, a pleasure to visit your blog.

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  2. I love Caeser's salad and always order it in restaurants but oh if it was more like yours! The kale is tasty but makes it healthier and the bacon and cashews are marvelous additions. What a fabulous lunch.

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  3. I was in the same boat as you at one point Sam, until my daughter made me a massaged kale salad. I have been hooked ever since!! LOve this Caesar Salad version as well with its crunch cashews instead of croutons. Everything about it just says "eat me".

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  4. I grow kale and this is a welcome addition to my kale recipes. I am loving the dressing and will make that tonight. Love how you circumvented the raw egg!

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  5. I love kale and this salad sounds really good. I can buy organic baby kale at Ingles. It comes is those plastic tubs like the baby spinach. I like the baby kale the best.

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  6. I tools fantastic..I should have put kale in my basket for some reason i put Romaine in it..having mesclun'ed/arugula'd out lately:)
    I love warm food on a warm plate..I love this reverse idea!
    Will use!

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  7. Sam, You're making me hungry this morning, I love kale, we grow a ton, I will definitely try this!

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  8. Sam, Well, I guess that we'll have to try kale too... We haven't gone there yet but this salad looks terrific! Thanks and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  9. Sounds phenomenal. The sweet cashews, the bitter kale, and the tang of anchovies.

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  10. I'm hooked on kale salad and your recipe sounds delicious, Sam. Love the handful of cashews you added and that yummy dressing that I must try ASAP.

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  11. I grew up on kale. It was steamed and served with the "pot liquor" and cider vinegar with corn bread. I still love it that way but also love all the new ways to serve it. Your salad looks delicious!

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  12. I would happily live on this type of salad, if only my husband loved salads as much as I do! Take care Diane

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  13. I'm always looking for ways to incorporate more kale into our meals and this is a perfect way! What a great idea to to make it into a caesar - LOVE the dressing!
    Mary

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  14. I like the idea of adding cashews and bacon to your salad. They not only add crunch but tons of flavor.

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  15. Healthy, colorful and tasty! A wonderful idea.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  16. Sam, your photos are so beautiful they make me hungry.

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  17. Delicious looking salad Sam, I absolutely love that you used kale...I can have this salad as my main meal.
    Hope you are having a fabulous week :D

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  18. This is my kind of salad. I enjoy going out to eat and then re-creating the dish at home. Looks delicious!

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  19. What a great version of Caesar salad, Sam! We're actually having grilled chicken Caesar salads for dinner tonight and your dressing is almost identical to the one I've been using for years which I gleaned from a food forum many moons ago. I have to admit that I use the anchovy paste but I'll have to try mashing the filets next time. The recipe I use has a dash of Tabasco and freshly grated Parmigiana in the dressing plus both red wine and lime juice. I can't wait to try it with kale next time! Love the bacon and cashews in yours too.

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  20. Do you see my hand waving Sam? You're not the last person to try kale, that's me:@) Glad to hear you liked it and I love your mayo tip for the dressing-gonna give that a try!

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  21. This sounds really good and different.

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  22. I, like you, am late to the kale party. I had it hot in NYC a year ago and loved it but have not tried it at home. The substitution of mayonnaise for the egg yolk in the caesar is brilliant. I don't understand why people are so squeamish about anchovies. They give everything an incredible depth. I am going to give this salad a try this weekend and will get back with the results. I am sure I will love it.

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  23. Kale is one of my favourite winter veggies. I can even eat them raw without any dressing at all.
    Your Caesar salad looks terrific, Sam.

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  24. Oh yum, this looks delicious. Having grown up in an Italian home, we ate lots of kale - the dark Italian variety. I enjoy it sauteed with garlic and pine nuts as a side dish. Also after a long saute, it is particularly good in a frittata. I also enjoy it in bean soups and meatball soups.With its distinct flavor, versatility and big nutritional value, this is a vegetable that has it all.

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  25. Well, I've used kale in soups, added some to a salad and my daughter uses it in her "green" drink, but I've never used it as the only lettuce in a salad, Sam. This looks marvelous! Your dressing sounds so good, I've already copied it. Love the presentation and deconstructing the croutons is such a super idea. A win on all fronts!

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  26. I've always enjoyed cooked kale but have only eaten it raw when checking it in the garden. Your salad looks terrific and makes me want to go buy some right now. I also want to try your dressing.

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  27. Looks marvelous Sam. Trader Joe's carries a line of organic Kale that is terrific. Love your Caesar dressing.

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  28. Kale is more substantial than spinach which is why I love it. Your salad looks like a winner.

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  29. Hello Sam

    We had an early lunch and now I am tempted to try this salad. The only problem is I have no ingredients. Tomorrow for sure. Thanks for sharing and have a delightful weekend''
    Helen xx

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  30. this salad looks amazing :-) i was slow on the kale trend also but its so good

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  31. Well you don't see me talking about Kale ... I need to give it more of a chance. Whenever I think I'm going to pick some up, the beautiful chard always ends up in my cart. This recipe sounds like a great way to get me to give it more of a chance.

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  32. I jumped on and we are jumping off! I chopped it up and mixed it our salad, but it was tough and chewy. I will have to hop over to Kate's to see what she made with hers. I have bought it for years, but only used it underneath cheese platters and chicken salad, etc

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    1. Kathleen, I was afraid the kale would be tough too and that's one of the reasons I was slow to try it. I made extra sure I removed all of the stems and that eliminated the problem for me. But kale is definitely more chewy than say a soft butter lettuce or a spring mix. We love salads and I'm happy to have another choice when it comes to lettuces. I hope you'll try kale again in a salad and take extra care to remove all of the stem before chopping.
      Sam .

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  33. This looks just fabulous Sam. I wasn't a kale-believer till I tried it either :)

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  34. I'm a long time fan of kale -- stir fried or cooked with hog jowl. I enjoy it raw in salads so I'm sure I'll like this version.

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  35. thats some heathy thing on plate
    oh my my it is indeed one treat to eyes and tummy:)

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  36. oh a kale recipe I can actually get my husband to eat! YEAH! Hope is alive! LOL! He hates kale but loves casear so what a fabulous idea to combine the two. the bacon on top can only help matters to. What man doesn't like bacon. I love this salad. Job well done my friend

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  37. It is so weird that kale is so trendy. It is healthy and I must admit I like kale chips a lot. Your salad looks terrific. pinned.

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  38. This is a great twist on a great salad! I have yet to take the kale plunge and will have to get with it after seeing this. I wonder who started this food craze, but it's healthy and that's good. Thanks for the recipe!

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  39. Dear Sam, Yes, kale is the new rage! I make the kale chips and I really enjoy them. I will have to try this salad. Blessings dear. Catherine xo

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