Even before it was trendy, Mother always told me to “eat your greens.” Mindful of the importance of this, a fresh salad graced the dinner table every day. Growing up in Pennsylvania meant harsh winters causing the availability of produce to be slim pickings. As a result, iceberg lettuce was the fall back, much to her chagrin. As temperatures warmed, however, she was delighted to see curly endive, spinach and other seasonal greens presented. Her salads were never complex but always delicious. Dressed in a homemade vinaigrette, they were tossed with garden radish, cucumber, tomato or whatever was available. Occasionally. she would bust out and add a scoop of cottage cheese, croutons or hard-cooked egg. Those were always my favorites and still are.
One flavor profile that never made it to my childhood table was Asian. As a result of my heritage, my family’s idea of ethnic food was Italian with an occasional German inspired creation from my mother’s side. That said, I doubt Mom would have been inclined to make the recipe I am featuring but I think if I made it for her she would have found it an inspired use of kale and tasty indeed.
The distinctive taste in the dressing comes primarily from the sesame oil which is available in two basic types. One is light in color and taste and the other is darker, stronger in flavor (be careful not to use too much as it can over power) and very aromatic. The later, which always occupies space in my refrigerator, is seen often in Asian cooking and used more as an accent or condiment than a cooking oil. Expelled from sesame seeds, it can enhance everything from popcorn, noodles, vegetables and in this case, salad.
Here is how it goes down.
RAW KALE SALAD w/ SESAME DRESSING
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
2 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled and smashed
1 t fresh ginger, grated
1 ½ T dark sesame oil
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T Tamari or soy sauce (preferably naturally brewed)
1 ½ T unseasoned rice vinegar
Place all ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously. Best if made ahead to allow flavors to marry.
1 large bunch fresh kale, tender greens removed from tough stalks and torn into bite size pieces or 5oz. package of baby kale, stems trimmed
1-2 T sesame seeds, toasted or ¼ c toasted pumpkin seeds (I used black and white sesame seeds)
Japanese tagarashi (crushed chili pepper), optional
- Wash kale and dry (I use a salad spinner)
- Dress greens with dressing enough to coat. Allow to sit for 10- 30 minutes for kale to marinate.
- Sprinkle with sesame or pumpkin seeds and tagarashi, if using, just before serving. Toss to mix.
- Serve and enjoy.
Bright and light, this is a perfect dish for summer parties. It can be made ahead and just seems to get better as the acid in the dressing wilts and softens the kale. The “no cook” factor is also a plus because who needs more heat in the house?
The nutty flavor of the sesame appeals to children and adults as well. Requests have come from my grandchildren for Nonna to make this, so I offer that as expert testimony. Speaking of family, I am taking some time to spend with them so I will be gone for a couple of weeks but returning soon with stories, recipes and inspiration. Until then, listen to Mom, make sure you “eat your greens” and keep spreading the love, one dish at a time. Sending love and good dishes from my kitchen to yours. Jeanne