It’s not the most romantic photo (apologies, it was so good we couldn’t help but eat it immediately!), but this Cavalo Nero Caesar salad is a stellar addition to the curious category of “winter salads.” I had this one at Il Buco in the East Village a month back and I couldn’t believe how flavorful it was, so I just had to try it myself. I always tend to enjoy the rich anchovy egg Caesar salad dressing in the fall/winter, but Romaine is a ridiculous purchase this time of year. The Black Tuscan Kale (Cavalo Nero) has a much more mellow bitterness than its kale cousins, but the leaves really sweeten up when you parboil them. I find the salad works well both with raw and cooked leaves. Kale is a wonderful winter vegetable, rich with calcium, lutein, iron, and vitamins A, C, and K. It’s also rich in sulforophane, which boosts the body’s detoxification enzymes and also has anticancer properties.
So let’s just say this variation on an Americanized Italian salad reintroduces some much needed Italian ingredients in a one-two punch of rustic Tuscan class and nutritive value. I find it lovely without the crusty bread, but if you’re really in need of some, check out my original Caesar for instructions.
1 large bunch cavalo nero
1 1/2 tablespoons mild-tasting olive oil (I always use EVOO)
1-2 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
One high quality Organic (or better) egg
A good hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano or Aged Pecorino, large shavings
Black pepper, freshly cracked
Juice of I/2 lemon
Wash the kale and remove any woody stems.
Only if you want to cook the leaves: Set some water to boil in a medium saucepan and add in a pinch of baking soda. Once the water comes to a boil, add the kale and parboil for 3-5 minutes (depending on the maturity of the leave), removing just when it’s gone from tough to crisp and there’s a sweetness to the taste. Place in a colander and let cool.
Whisk the oil, anchovies, a little salt, and garlic in a small bowl. Add the egg, a few sprinkles of cheese, and lots of black pepper. *Whisk to emulsify. Add the lemon juice. Whisk. Taste and adjust seasoning. Place the kale in a bowl, add enough dressing to coat and toss. Sprinkle on some cheese and toss lightly. Serve immediately with some added cheese, for the super cheese nut.
*Note: It’s much easier to emulsify when using a ball whisk. The more loops that touch the liquid the faster and more evenly distributed the dressing will be. Careful not to go crazy, though, because you don’t want to aerate the egg too much, causing bubble to form.
For those who don’t feel anchovies are quite for them, the NYTimes has a version with raw kale, pecorino, and red pepper flakes that omits the egg and anchovy part of the dressing. While I haven’t tried this version, the recipe looks rather yummy.