Hands down, my favorite food growing up was Caesar Salad.  I don’t even know how or where this started, but pretty much every time my family and I would go out to eat I would get a Caesar Salad.  Thankfully my palate has expanded and I now enjoy trying new dishes at restaurants, but sometimes there is still nothing more comforting to me than a meal that includes Caesar Salad.  A good Caesar Salad is exploding with the flavors of garlic, anchovies, lemon, salty Parmesan and is topped with big crunchy croutons.  However, the dietitian in me knows that Caesar Salad isn’t the most nutritious so I rarely make it at home.

This week, as I was studying the previously mentioned Tartine Bread cookbook, I stumbled across their Kale Caesar recipe.  Beautiful (and nutritious) kale leaves are dressed with the traditional Caesar dressing and lovingly topped with homemade croutons and Parmesan.  The simple change from Romaine to kale intrigued me and I decided to serve it alongside this soup this weekend.

Kale Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

From the Tartine Bread cookbook by Chad Robertson

Note – the recipe for the dressing is made using a mortar and pestle.  If, like me, you do not have one, you can make the dressing in a food processor.  Keep in mind the dressing may not be as smooth.  I am now inspired to go buy one just so I can have more perfect dressing.

2 lemons

3 cloves garlic

6 olive oil – packed anchovy fillets

1 large egg yolk

Salt

2 cups olive oil

2 lbs lacinato kale, stems removed, and torn

Croutons (recipe follows)

2/3 cup grated or shaved Parmesan Cheese

To make the dressing, grate the zest from 1 lemon.  Cut both lemons in half.  Place garlic, anchovies, and lemon zest in a mortar and pound with pestle to until a thick paste forms.  Add the egg yolk, a pinch of salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice and stir to combine.  Continuing to stir, pour ½ cup of the oil drop by drop.  The mixture should look smooth and creamy, a sign you are building a stable emulsion.  Continuing to stir, begin adding the oil in a slow stream.  The dressing will thicken.  Periodically stop pouring in the oil and add a squeeze of lemon.  Taste the dressing and add more salt and lemon juice as needed.  Add water, a small spoonful at a time, stirring to thin dressing to the consistency of heavy cream.

In a large bowl, combine kale and croutons.  Pour the dressing over the top and toss to coat.  Add the Parmesan, toss, and serve.

Homemade Croutons

4 slices day old bread (I used Pain au Levain), each 1 inch thick, torn into 1 ½ – inch chunks.

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt

½ teaspoon herbes de Provence (optional)

Preheat oven to 400° F.  In a bowl, toss the torn bread with olive oil and a pinch of salt.  If you are using the herbs, add them too.  Spread the bread evenly on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crisp, 15-20 minutes.  Halfway through the baking stir the croutons to redistribute.