While “Michael’s Mom’s Kale Salad” is a little bit cumbersome for a recipe title, I could also call it “the only green salad my brother will eat.”
The original blog post (which I have clicked on/accessed/read/devoured like 800 times) has a far more poetic and descriptive title: “Syrian Kale and Carrot Salad with Shattered Dates.” Carolyn Jung is such a fantastic food writer!
So today it is raining– pouring down rain– and as I look outside I see the brown paper grocery bag (from my happy place the Metropolitan Market) that I left outside last night getting wetter and wetter. It’s full of limes squeezed of all their juice and ribs of kale. I’m going to have quite the time getting it into the compost bin when it is dry enough to venture outside.
Two things to know about me: I love rain, and I love kale.
My favorite kind of rain is the kind happening right now– a drenching deluge with hard hitting drops that make amazing patterns on a deck or outdoor tables.
My favorite kale? Well, while I love all the kales, I must specify that the ribs are from two beautiful bunches of Lacinato kale. There’s just something about the shape and color and texture of the leaves that my body just responds to.
Plus, like Method Man, Lacinato kale has all these super fun aliases: cavolo nero (the “black cabbage”), Tuscan kale, Italian kale, dinosaur kale, flat back kale (!), palm tree kale, or Black Tuscan palm.
The “flat back” moniker was a new one to me, and it reminds me of that line from the nurse in Romeo and Juliet when she says to Juliet, “Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit.” How I used to love unpacking all the dirty jokes in that play when I was teaching!
But I digress.
Anyway, yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day in Seattle– sunny and bright and not too cold and still plenty of bright fall colors amidst the evergreens. I’m housesitting for my friend Maddy and she has a fantastic kitchen with a huge white island and gigantic windows. Cooking in Maddy’s kitchen is a JOY, my friends.
I listened to my new favorite band, Cannons (I love, love, LOVE their cover of “Sex on Fire“) while I thrilled to the sensual joys of salad making: the squeezing of limes, the massaging of kale, the julienning of carrots, the chopping of feta, the shattering of dates …
My sister Lizzy, who is a wonderful cook, always makes the remains of fruit and vegetables look so gorgeous. I tried to photograph mine, but I just couldn’t capture their beauty or the ecstatic joy of the moment.
Anyway, Lizzy is married to Michael, my brother-in-law, and his mother made this salad for us a few years ago for a family celebration. I don’t know what else to say except this: Michal’s mom’s kale salad was a hit: Michael’s mom’s kale salad is now a staple at our family events.
My biological brother, Matthew, was an extremely ̶
p̶i̶c̶k̶y̶ discerning child: the only foods he would willingly eat were peanut butter and honey sandwiches and Top Ramen. While I don’t know a lot about his eating habits as an adult, I will share that at family dinners, he will often arrive hours late; we will all be extremely thrilled when he does get there (we love him dearly); we will rush to fix him a plate … from which he will discard anything green.
Except one time I made Michael’s mom’s salad and Matthew not only ate it … HE ASKED IF THERE WAS MORE. I just about died, I was so happy.
That’s my best testimonial for this salad. My brother likes it!
So … our family celebration yesterday, I made the kale salad and everything I wrote above happened: everyone loved it; my brother arrived late; he ate every bite; he asked for more.
Making It Yourself
If you do make this salad, there are a few other things to know:
- You will want to double the recipe, because everyone will eat it and most people will ask you for seconds and if you are anything like me, you LOVE it when people enjoy what you made and you HATE to say no.
- Squeezing the limes is a ton of work. Friend, just suck it up and do it. Do not succumb to the temptation of bottled or frozen or pre-squeezed. Fresh squeezed lime juice really makes the salad when you combine it with the secret ingredient.
- The secret ingredient is the pomegranate molasses. It’s worth it to buy a bottle and not use it for anything else and have it sit in your cupboard for a year in the back and then forget and then buy another bottle and then realize you have two now. It’s fine. Just add a teaspoon to your next champagne cocktail with some frozen cranberries for icecubes. Relax.
- Do not use granulated garlic or garlic powder, as the original recipe calls for. DO NOT. Mince garlic. Please. I beg you.
Michael’s Mom’s Kale Salad: THE RECIPE
Ingredients for Dressing
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Ingredients for Salad
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup pitted dates
- 1 large bunch Lacinato kale, stems and center ribs removed, coarsely chopped
- 2 large carrots, cut into 1/8-inch-thick matchsticks
- 1 cup crumbled feta
- Nigella seeds
Make the Dressing
I put all the ingredients into a Mason jar and shake well. However, the original recipe says to “combine all ingredients except the oil in a blender and mix well. With the blender running, gradually add the oil and blend until emulsified. Set aside.” You do you. I trust your judgement. 🙂
Make the Salad
- You can toast the almonds or not toast them. Personally, I prefer them lightly toasted.
- Coarsely chop dates.
- Prep the kale.
- Julienne the carrots.
- Massage the kale in the dressing. Every time I’ve made this recipe it’s WAYYYY too much dressing, so I would go sparingly at first. Use less than you think you need. Then you have it for future kale salads!
- Add carrots, dates, feta, almonds, and nigella seeds … and toss again. I use my hands, but you can use salad tongs, of course.
Word with Me!
- If you make this recipe, please take a photo and tag me on Ista! Or comment below … or both.
- Also … do you have things you love to do with pomegranate molasses? Share your genius! Inquiring minds want to KNOW!
- Finally … recipe modifications are the BEST. That is my favorite part of the New York Times Cooking, BTW. What did you do to make this fantastic concoction of tastes and flavors your own?