ribollita salad

real talk (does anyone say that anymore?): i love kale. i will refrain from going on and on with all the reasons i adore it so, and just state finally that it is my favorite green vegetable on this planet. everything you need to know about why kale is king veg are clearly illustrated here. its emerald frills are welcome in every savory dish i can imagine, but i think i like it best in a pure state: sauteed with garlic and lemon, or better yet - raw in a salad. yes, raw! when its inside-scrubbing powers are at their most potent.

to paraphrase my friend allison,
"even being in the same room as kale makes you healthier"

last thursday sister lauren and our pal annabell came over for dinner. before they arrived i started prepping a salad whose concept had occurred to me earlier while i was browsing this awesome food blog. one of the featured recipes on that site was for ribollita, a hearty and simple tuscan peasant soup. i ate ribollita constantly awhile back, when i worked for an italian cafe that makes consistently top notch stuff, including killer soups. you probably already know that white beans and kale are best friend ingredients, but they meld extra well together against the tomato broth-y backdrop in ribollita. i scanned the Food52 recipe and excitedly realized that all the necessary elements were already waiting in the fridge at home! but thursday was one of those spring preview days: warm and cheery and decidedly not a soup day. and then a little idea bubbled up from my cooking-brain, and there it was: ribollita salad!

the ingredients await their fate

note- when i make this salad again i will do one of a few things to improve it:
1. make the salad a full 24 hours in advance to let the marinating powers really take over.
2. seek out younger, more tender kale. 2 bunches of farmer's market lacinato kale in the summer will be just the ticket.
3. toss the kale with still-hot vegetable broth to wilt it ever so slightly (this is reflected in the recipe below).
as it was, the kale in this salad was still very raw by the time it was served, and kind of intense in texture. for true kale-o-philes such as ourselves it wasn't a big deal, but for the uninitiated, it might be a less pleasant chewing experience.

but otherwise, the end product was indeed a cold and crunchy version of the soup, just as i'd envisioned. this also made a monster batch, but was perfect for lunch for the next few days, as the dressing dutifully worked its magic on the tougher bits.

Ribollita Salad
~takes about 30 minutes, plus marinating time~
~serves 4-6, or lunch for days~

1 large bunch of kale, cut off the rib and torn or cut into bite sized pieces/ribbons
2 tomatoes
2 stalks of celery
2 carrots
2 shallots
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 15 ounce can of white beans, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons vegetable broth, warmed
1 tablespoon tomato paste, tomato juice, or the watery tomato stuff from canned tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
the juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and dried italian seasoning to taste
1/2 cup homemade breadcrumbs (do not use pre-made here! too sandy, blech)
parmesan reggiano (optional)

- put the prepped kale in a large salad bowl.

heat up the veg broth, either in the microwave or on the stove top. while it's still hot, whisk in the garlic, tomato paste, vinegar, and lemon juice. add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking to emulsify best you can. season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and oregano/basil/marjoram. taste to adjust. if the dressing has cooled by this point, re-heat gently til medium warm.

- toss the kale with the dressing, making sure all the leaves are coated. cover with a lid or towel and set to the side. you want this to marinate for at least 30 minutes before eating. if you're making something else for lunch or dinner as well, now is a good time to start working on that.

- chop up the rest of the vegetables for the salad. if you want to get fancy and shred the carrots, or soak the shallots in cold water for a few minutes to tame their bite, go for it.

- prep the breadcrumbs. if you're making your own from a heel of stale baguette (bravo!), rub the bread with the cut edge of a garlic clove, then blast apart in the food processor. toast gently in the toaster oven or in a pan, til golden and fragrant.

- taste the marinated kale. add a splash more vinegar, or more s&p, or another secret weapon (caper juice? dry vermouth?) if you desire a bolder flavor. otherwise, toss in the rest of the vegetables and the beans. before serving, dump the breadcrumbs on top. for the dairy eaters, some shaved parm is called for here.

a craft beer in a frosty can is rarely out of order with dinner, and the citrusy crispness of the avery white rascal was a fine companion beverage to the kale salad, the roasted brussels with tempeh bacon (team Lauren), and red rice and root vegetables (team Annabell) that made up the vegan feast that we three sat down to. you know, if i'd been cooking and eating alone (as happens a bit more often now), i probably would have called the salad dinner and left it at that. but working in the kitchen alongside two other creative, confident, considerate cooks meant that while i was making my dish, other delicious things were simultaneously just happening. annabell even did the dishes! and for dessert, we watched pop videos on youtube...