Black kale is not the same as the grocery store kale I use in winter soups. The kind that’s so green it squeaks when you chew it. Black kale is a lot more versatile (and quieter too). I use it raw in springtime salads. You probably do too. It’s been developing a bit of a cult status among chefs in the past decade or so. It has a more delicate leaf with a less fibrous (chewy) stem than the curly stuff. Which means it’s as delicious raw as it is cooked.
This time of year black kale is easy to find at the Hollywood Farmer Market. It’s an Italian variety that thankfully grows very well in the “Mediterranean” climate here in Southern California. In a nod to its origins, it’s most commonly called Tuscan kale, but I have also seen it referred to as lacinato and dinosaur kale (presumably due to it’s reptilian, crenulated texture). But I like the name black kale. It has the right sort of mystery to make it sound exciting.
Most recipes suggest blanching kale, then reheating it in olive oil or braising it further with a little stock. Which is a great way to go because as I said, the more common curly kale is so chewy and so “green” tasting that it really requires a lot of wet heat to be perfectly palatable (IMHO). Black kale has all the great qualities of its sturdier cousin, but it’s not necessary to blanch it before using. Which is why black kale (like baby kale) is a good choice for salads.
Black Kale Salad
Today I am bringing it to you raw and in a boldly textured salad with shaved brussels sprouts and white beans. I’ve also chosen a creamy, almost Caesar-like lemon-saffron dressing. I got the idea from Melissa Clark who dresses her black kale salad in a fairly traditional (though eggless) Caesar dressing. I’ve tried it that way and like it very much. But I’ve been perfecting a lemony, garlicky, (with a hint of saffron) raw egg yolk dressing and wanted to feature it on this blog. It’s bold enough to stand up to black kale without overpowering it. GREG