Every year, I participate in a wonderful community garden program, The Peterson Garden Project. It started 6 years ago when I came home from drinks with friends at half price wine night. Dangerous. I was scanning through my twitter feed and saw someone post that she’d just bought a community garden plot in the city. I didn’t even know we had that so completely intrigued, I clicked on the link to learn more. The next morning I saw the confirmation in my inbox. In general, I don’t mix pinot and online shopping but I was thrilled. I’ve never been much of a gardener beyond the herb boxes on my back porch but I am a cook and an eater and the thought of growing things tickled me to death. I started perusing seed catalogs and downloading plot planners like a kid making Christmas wish lists.
That first year was a bit rough. All my tomatoes got blight, my cucumbers and squash died slow, ugly deaths and I made a salad, unknowingly, from a giant weed. Most importantly, I learned what not to do and the next year was better. In fact, every year I’ve gotten a little better with my 26 square feet of dirt. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t for me and documented it all on an Instagram hashtag #littleplotthatcould. Cherry tomatoes: yes. Full size tomatoes: no (though that’s more of a personal preference.) Cucumbers and zucchini: god no. Peppers: absolutely yes. Various herbs do extremely well and I’m still trying to figure out how to grow more than one eggplant in 5 months. And then there’s kale. Oh man, the kale.
This past weekend was the official close of the garden for the 2016 season and some friends and I met to put our beds to sleep for the winter. This usually involves yanking out spindly dry tomato plants, finding things you didn’t know existed growing under the wilting basil bushes and lamenting that some things are still going strong. It was also a moment I’ve dreaded for most of the last two months. It was time to deal with my insanely crazy kale plants. Way back in May, I bought two four-packs at the local garden center and though I probably shouldn’t have planted them all, who was I to deny a sweet little plant the opportunity to grown and flourish? So I planted all 8, 4 curly and 4 Tuscan. It was a bit much, I knew even then. I fertilized them once and besides watering somewhat regularly, left them alone. If there is a secret to my gardening abilities, it is that. Leave things alone.
Over time they grew, and grew and then grew some more. By September, they were 3 foot monsters. The more I cut, the more they grew. I even whacked the top off one plant due to a strange infestation and left the stub, more to see what would happen than anything else. It came back with a vengeance, a two-headed Hydra of kale. It was all just so much. So I cooked a lot. I gave away a lot. Then I ignored – it was time for a kale vacation. But Sunday, I had to face the music. With a sigh of resignation, I went in with my clippers and filled a gigantic shopping bag to the top with gorgeous deep green leaves. When all was said and done I had 4 pounds total. It was more kale than I knew what to do with, so I got creative. I had friends that celebrated an anniversary and another that had a birthday today so … I gave them celebratory kale. What says love and friendship more than leafy green vegetables?
That left me with 2lbs. What to do, what to do? I thought about that delicious Portuguese soup, caldo verde. I’m sure I’ll saute a bunch with chickpeas and pasta and maybe a shot of pesto. I’ll throw some in my morning smoothie, disregarding the odd shade of grey/green in favor of focusing on the nutrient benefits. And I’ll make this salad; this delicious salad.
A few years ago while on a research trip on the west coast, my colleagues and I stopped to check out a quick serve restaurant called Tender Greens. We ordered a bunch of things, as we typically do, and dug in. I kept coming back to this one particular salad; it was the perfect combination of fresh and crunchy and salty and savory and I loved it. I dug around the bowl and made some notes: kale, roasted fennel and potatoes, crispy chickpeas, sweetness from golden raisins, saltiness from grated parmesan and the kicker, crispy nuggets of salami. Where has crispy salami bits been all my life? Lightly dressed with a roasted garlic vinaigrette, it was delicious. So with this bumper crop of kale in my fridge, I made it.
I used the Tuscan kale, torn into bite sized pieces (also known as dinosaur, cavolo nero or black kale), roasted some fennel and potatoes with a little olive oil and salt, and used purchased crispy chickpeas, though you could certainly make your own. I cut salami into fat little strips and pan fried until crispy but still pliable. Originally, I popped these in the oven with the vegetables but lost track and crisped them a bit too much. I inadvertently made salami chips and while delicious, were a bit overdone for what I was looking for. Stovetop cooking was a little easier to manage. For the dressing, I roasted a head of garlic along with the vegetables until tender and caramelized and blended the cloves with some classic vinaigrette ingredients – mustard, vinegar, olive oil – until smooth and creamy. A little mix, a little toss, and the perfect salad, full of interesting bits and pieces, was ready to go. I took my bumper crop of kale and turned it into something new and different and delicious. I enjoyed it most while perusing seed catalogs and dreaming up plans for next year.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: BUMP IT. Are we over kale yet? It went from the trendy ingredient on everyone’s table to something so commonplace they sell it at Wal-Mart. But disregard the snarky comments and the overhype and remember, its delicious. And good for you too. This is a new spin on the old kale salad and is chock full of all those things we like best about salads: all those tasty little bits. Give it a shot.
Past Peterson Garden posts: PGP – the start, PGP – Sophie’s Choice, PGP – How It Goes, PGP – The End, PGP Round 2
Other kale recipes: Kale & Squash Salad, Caldo Verde
Seven years ago: Chicken Salad Full of Good Things, Cleaning Out the Freezer
Six years ago: Blue Cheese Dressing with a Wedge Salad
Five years ago: Maple Buttermilk Spoonbread with Glazed Pears
Four years ago: Figgy BBQ Sauce
Three years ago: Apple Cider Compote and an Orchard Party
Two years ago: Roasted Delicata Squash – 4 Ways
Last year: Thai Peanut Butter
note: I’m a dipshit. When I first posted this salad, I completely forgot to add the crispy chickpeas. Dumb. On 11/10/16 I remade, reshot, reposted and then re-ate the salad with the crispy chickpeas. My apologies for any confusion this may have caused.
KALE SALAD WITH CRISPY SALAMI & CHICKPEAS
Serves 2, can be easily halved or multiplied
Of all the kales, I like the Tuscan variety best but any kale or any sturdy green really, will work. If you’re not a kale fan at all, try romaine. Crispy chickpeas can be found in the snack aisle of your grocery store by the nuts; if you don’t see them there try to organic/allergy section. For the salami buy a 1/8” piece from the deli counter or a whole salami in the cheese section and cut into 1/8” thick slices.
For the roasted garlic vinaigrette:
1 small head of garlic, about 18-20 cloves
1 ½ Tablespoons cider vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 ½ teaspoons honey
1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
good pinch of ground black pepper
two good pinches of kosher salt
¼ cup good olive oil
for the salad:
1/8” thick piece of hard or genoa salami (about ¼ cup or more once sliced)
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, root end cut into ½” pieces
1 medium red potato, cut into ½” cubes
¼ cup crispy chickpeas
¼ cup golden raisins
½ pound kale, tuscan if possible, stems discarded, leaves torn into bite size pieces
¼ cup shredded parmesan
- For the vinaigrette: Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Cut the top ¼”-½” off of the garlic, place on a square of foil, and drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil.
- Wrap in foil and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Let cool.
- Squeeze each roasted clove into a blender, discarding the papery skins.
- Add the vinegar, mustard, honey, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and blend well.
- With the motor running on medium-low, slowly pour in olive oil in a slow steady steam, scraping the workbowl as needed.
- Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
- For the salad components: meanwhile, mix the diced fennel with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt. Do the same, separately, with the potatoes.
- On a foil lined sheet pan, spread the fennel on one side and the potato on the other.
- Roast for 10 minutes, stirring the fennel halfway through.
- After 10-12 minutes the fennel should be golden brown. Transfer to a small bowl and return the potatoes back to the oven for another 15 or so minutes until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
- Cut the salami into batons, about 1/8” thick.
- Heat a saute pan over medium high heat and saute the salami until crispy yet still pliable.
- Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain off any excess oil.
- To serve: in a large bowl, toss the kale with the vinaigrette.
- Add the roasted fennel and potatoes, raisins, crispy salami, chickpeas and a bit of parmesan. Toss to combine. Serve.