I’ll admit: When I first saw the words “kale” and “salad” together, my brain did not immediately translate that into “delicious.” In fact, my brain ran in the opposite direction, cowering under the delicate-but-bland baby spinach that’s always in the crisper. Stupid brain. Turns out kale salad is a wintertime revelation, much more filling than spinach, with a pleasant ruggedness and a much milder flavor than you (well, I) might imagine.
The first kale salad I ever tried was from Stay at Stove Dad (a blog which, by the way, you should definitely be reading). It was so simple, so effortless—toss a pile of barely-sautéed ribbons of lacinato kale (that’s a fancier version of the standard stuff, with long, lovely leaves) with lemon juice, Parm, and pine nuts. Done! It was quite an elegant little meal-for-one. But still, in my mind it’s not 100% a salad since it’s cooked, ever so slightly.
And then. And then! In the midst of the holiday bustle I met a group of fellow food writers for lunch at Resto. On the menu: “kale salad: brown butter and sherry vinaigrette, toasted almonds.” I was not the only one tempted by these few words—easily half the table ordered it. And it was good. Raw kale, tossed with a rich, mellow-tangy dressing and absolutely buried in sliced nuts. Ridiculously simple for so much flavor, so much satisfaction. I’m pretty sure it’s the browned butter; the depth, the playfulness, the comfort comes from there.
Of course, I had to make it at home. Resto’s version no doubt has double the butter, and probably 50% more almonds, but mine is Weight Watchers-friendly and every bit as perfect for a gray, borderline-depressing winter day.
Kale Salad with Browned Butter-Sherry Vinaigrette
Serves 1, but multiplies easily
Weight Watchers: The dressing/almonds combo is 4 PointsPlus—if you add the kale to the Recipe Builder it brings this up to 7 PointsPlus, but since vegetables are zero points I call fooey and don’t count it.
3 cups washed and torn kale leaves (lacinato, aka “Tuscan” or “dinosaur,” or regular, organic preferred—especially for babies & kids)
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds (Trader Joe’s sells them already toasted, or you can toast them in a dry skillet for 2-3 minutes, until they darken)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
salt & pepper
- Put the kale leaves in a large bowl, and top with the almonds.
- Put the butter in a small, stainless-steel skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Swirl it around a bit as it melts, just to keep it cooking evenly. It’ll foam, and when the foam subsides the magic begins. Continue to swirl the pan occasionally, but leave it alone otherwise—just watch it, since once the color starts to change it darkens quickly. When the butter begins to smell nutty and the color is toasty, remove it from the heat and transfer to a small, air-tight container.
- Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper, cover, and shake. Pour over the salad, toss well, and serve.
MAKE BABY FOOD: Raw kale isn’t terribly friendly to the very youngest eaters—though you know your baby best, and if she shows interest, there’s no medical reason not to let her try it. You can also lightly steam some kale leaves and puree with a bit of browned butter. If there are no food allergies in your immediate family, you can toss a few toasted almonds into the food processor as well.