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Red Kale Caesar Salad
Red Kale Caesar Salad Photo courtesy of Melody Fury

When Mat Clouser was creating the menu for his Austin restaurant, Swift’s Attic, he knew he wanted to include something to please his wife, who has a fondness for very fishy fish. So the chef dreamed up this take on the popular kale Caesar salad, then made it more attractive for seafood lovers by topping it with a fried sardine. At home, we skipped the sardine for simplicity’s sake and relied on the chef’s other inventive touches--like brown-butter rye-bread croutons and grilled lemon--to set this salad apart.

Makes 4 to 6 servings (plus about 1 cup dressing)

Rye Croutons

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

⅓ loaf rye bread, crust removed and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 3 cups)

Kosher salt


Caesar Dressing

8 roasted garlic cloves

2 egg yolks

Juice of 1½ lemons (about ¼ cup), plus more for seasoning

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon finely chopped anchovies

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil


Kale Salad

2 to 3 lemons, halved

2 heads red kale--trimmed, ribs removed and finely chopped (about 6 cups)

Kosher salt

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1. Make the croutons: Line a large plate with paper towels. In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, melt the butter and cook, swirling the skillet occasionally, until the butter solids are brown and have a nutty aroma, about 5 minutes. Add the bread, toss and cook, turning frequently, until golden brown and crunchy on the outside but still chewy in the middle, about 4 minutes. Transfer the croutons to the prepared plate and season with salt. Set aside.

2. Make the dressing: In a blender or the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic with the egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, anchovies, sugar, salt, black pepper and Parmesan; puree until smooth. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil and blend until combined. Transfer the dressing to a small bowl. Adjust the seasoning with additional lemon juice and salt, if necessary.

3. Make the salad: In a cast-iron skillet or griddle set over high heat, cook the lemons, flat side down, until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool to room temperature.

4. In a large bowl, toss the kale with ½ cup of the dressing, massaging the kale with your hands to coat it with the dressing. Season with salt and add additional dressing as desired. (You can reserve or pass the remaining dressing at the table.) Divide the salad among four to six plates and garnish with the croutons and Parmesan. Serve immediately with a grilled lemon half on the side.

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