Trust me, dear readers: I so badly wanted to provide a super verdant, completely fresh, hugely springtime recipe today. I wanted to be like every other food magazine, extolling the virtues of tender spring peas swimming in warm cream, or mashed with hot pepper against a scrap of olive oiled toast. Of course I want to stir ramps into my Carbonara, or braise skinny stalks of asparagus in Meyer lemon. I’ve been siting on a fava bean soup recipe for the better part of a year.
But do you know what I found at the farmers market yesterday? Root vegetables. Oh, root vegetables: it’s nothing personal, but you’re starting to depress me. Beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Turnips, and not the sweet baby spring ones (that should be roasted and eaten at room temperature, dribbled in spring-garlicky aioli), but turnips the size of softballs. There was not a single stalk of rhubarb hidden behind the parsnips.
I did find kale and brussels sprouts in abundance, though, and while I’m not a huge fan of either–the kale (in everything) and brussels sprouts (with bacon) craze is largely lost on me–I jumped at their mere greenness. It’s almost a spring salad, right? Right?
I’ve spotted versions of this salad on several restaurant menus, and thought I would give it a go at home. It’s pretty simple to toss together, and the sturdy greens hold up to dressing, so you can make it a few hours in advance if you want. Plus, once those spring greens actually do come through, I can use this salad as a starting point for a spring explosion..er..panzanella. Here’s hoping that day will come sooner rather than later.
A note about the roasted garlic: This is optional, because I understand it’s sort of a pain in the bum to roast, you know, one clove of garlic, especially when the rest of the salad comes together so quickly and easily. Roasted garlic adds depth of flavor, though, so if you do decide to roast, you might as well do a whole head of garlic, and use the rest for dinner’s main course. I rub garlic with olive oil, wrap it in a foil ball, and toss it into a 350F oven for about 30 minutes.
A note about additions: This salad would not suffer from the addition of some crisp bacon, or maybe a runny-yolked egg.
A note about exciting news: Vote for me! Saveur has named me one of their six Best New Blogs!
Makes 4 starter portions
- 1 bunch dinosaur kale
- 1/2 pound (or 2 cups) brussels spouts
- 1-2 cloves of garlic (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- kosher salt, black pepper
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts
- 1/3 cup finely grated pecorino
Get the oven out of the way:
Heat the oven to 350F. If you are roasting the garlic, rub it with olive oil, and wrap it in aluminum foil. Toss it into the oven for 30 minutes, or until the cloves are browned and super soft.
The hazelnuts should also be toasted at 350F, so do this simultaneously. Move them to a baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until they turn golden in spots. Remove the hazelnuts from the oven, let them cool, and then crush them into a crumbly dust. (This can be done in a mortar and pestle, or using the bottom of a coffee mug.)
While you are busy applying heat to things, you’ll probably want to toast the breadcrumbs. Why not? 2-3 minutes in a non-stick pan over medium heat should do it.
Prepare the veg:
Thoroughly wash and dry the kale. Remove the outer leaves of each brussels sprout, and then give each a rinse. Basically, make sure each vegetable is clean and dry.
Now you want to shred both. For the kale, remove the rib in the center of each leaf with a knife. Then stack the leaves on top of one another, and roll tightly; slice crosswise, reducing the kale into thin ribbons. (This is called “chiffonade”.) For the brussels spouts, I used a mandoline to shred them thinly and evenly.
Move the shredded kale and brussels spouts to a large mixing or salad bowl.
Make the Dressing:
If you roasted the garlic, move the 1-2 cloves (skins removed) to a small bowl. Add the Dijon, a pinch of salt and pepper, and then smoosh everything together with the back of a spoon.
Then add the white wine vinegar, the lemon juice, and the balsamic, and stir to combine. Add the hazelnut oil and the olive oil; whisk to emulsify.
Put the salad together:
To the large/salad bowl, add the lemon zest, the (toasted) breadcrumbs, the crushed hazelnuts, and the grated pecorino. Drizzle the dressing on top, and toss gently to coat. Portion the salad onto individual plates, and serve.
Add an extra flurry of cheese or black pepper, or a ribbon of aged balsamic, as garnish.