Food bloggers everywhere are guilty of exaggerating and overstating the quality of their recipes. Scan Pinterest and you will find more than one “best-ever,” “life-changing” or “to-die-for” concoction.
And while I’ve generally avoided such aggrandizement of my own food, I’m going to make an exception for this salad.
I hope this means you will trust me on this one. I don’t throw around terms like “to-die-for” too often. Particularly not when it comes to food. And never when that food involves leafy greens.
But this salad has truly revolutionized salad-eating for me. And for Kiwi too. We eat this salad like it’s our last meal: in silence, savouring each bite, and then literally licking the plate clean until not a trace of dressing remains. It is THAT good.
I never expected it to be THAT good, I will be honest. I set out to make a mayo-free caesar salad dressing (for my egg-allergic son); I forgot to buy romaine lettuce; and I unintentionally went a little heavy-handed with the anchovies. And from these circumstances, this salad was born. A happy, mouth-watering accident.
Since this is blog about feeding a family, I should be frank and say that my kids will NOT touch this. I did convince the Bean, a caesar-salad lover, to take a bite at least. She promptly spat it back it me, rinsed her mouth with milk, and declared it “disgusting,” her new favourite word. It’s the raw kale, I think—too grassy for a youngster’s palate. You can substitute romaine for the kale to make a more kid-appealing (if more conventional) version of this salad. Or you can do like I do and just save it all for the adults.
A couple of warnings before you dive right into the recipe. First: stock up on winter-fresh something (mints? gum?), particularly if you intend to serve this to guests. And avoid eating it before a business meeting, a first date or a French kiss, unless your colleagues or partner eat it too. Because while this salad is uber-delicious on the way in, it’s not quite as wonderful on the way out. You get my drift. Finally: leave out the anchovies at your peril. Those little buggers are not for everyone—I get it. But this salad is not deserving of it’s “to-die-for” moniker without them.
The croutons are completely optional and/or they can be replaced with store-bought ones to make things a bit easier on you. But the zaatar croutons I’ve pictured here do take the salad to the very next level. Try them at least once, if you can. Zaatar is a mild Middle Eastern spice and seed mix that you can purchase at most well-stocked grocery stores.
- 3 small or 2 large garlic cloves
- 3 anchovy filets (I buy the ones packed in little jars of oil)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup full-fat (2% or higher) Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup plus 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (plus additional for sprinkling on top, if you like that)
- 1 large bunch of kale (Tuscan or green), destemmed and finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 1 whole wheat flatbread or pita (the ones without the pocket, preferably)
- 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1½ teaspoons zaatar
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut the pita into approximately ¾ inch pieces. Toss them with 1½ tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the zaatar.
- Dump them onto the lined baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until the bread is crispy and golden brown. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.
- Combine all the dressing ingredients (reserving 1½ tablespoons of olive oil) in a food processor or small powerful blender. (I use my personal-sized Vitamix, which is PERFECT for making salad dressings!)
- Blend until the dressing is very creamy. Transfer to a small container.
- Put the chopped kale in a large salad bowl. Add the reserved olive oil and ½ teaspoon sea salt. Then massage the heck out of the kale (squeezing it between your fingers) until it softens considerably. This will take a few minutes. It's an awesome way to get out your frustrations.
- Dress the kale, adding the dressing a tablespoon at a time until it's evenly covered and dressed to your liking. I recommend erring on the side of more dressing, rather than less. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over the extra Parmesan cheese and croutons just before you are ready to serve the salad.