Lowly kale is hot, hot, hot. In case you haven't heard, it's the super-est superfood out there right now, boasting more nutrients per calorie than anything else known to man.
It's so chalk full of goodness, we're told it will lengthen our lives, improve our eyesight and even make us more beautiful. Most astounding of all its super-feats, kale has recently crossed the health-food/fast-food barrier and can now be found on the menus of such hallowed eateries as Chick-fil-A and McDonald's. Yes, really.
It certainly wasn't always like this. In my very first waitressing job at a Phoenix-area diner chain in the 1980s, a leaf of curly kale was the garnish on every plate. A little homely to my young eyes, the dark green leaves nevertheless added a much-needed dash of color to an otherwise pale plate of eggs or omelets.
To be perfectly honest, as I spent my high school days slingin' hash after school, it never crossed my mind that you could eat the stuff. When my mother once murmured, "Oh, that's kale. It's very good for you," and took a bite, I thought she was nuts.
Now, of course, I see that she was right. (For the record, she was also right about reusing things, not screaming in the back seat of the car, and Burt Bacharach. But perhaps that's another post.)
But as we now run around adding kale to everything from smoothies to salads to pasta, are we doing it because we love it, or just because we like the virtuous feelings and bragging rights it entitles us to?
Look, eating kale should not a noble cause, to be enjoyed only by health nuts and foodies. Kale should be delicious! It should be so scrumptiously mouthwatering, that it leaves you wanting more.
But kale does best with just a bit of nurturing. Like a certain 9 year-old girl who lives in my house, kale is a bit more strong and assertive than most and if you're not on your toes, can leave you with a highly creative mess to deal with (even though it probably sounded like a good idea at the time).
In this salad, the peppery garlic and bright lemon juice in the dressing stand right up to share the spotlight with Lacinto kale, and the creamy pecorino-romano cheese, toasted almonds and the punch of juicy nectarines are there to grab your attention. The kale is cut into chiffonade (very thin strips) instead of standard salad pieces, to help it mingle more evenly with the other flavors in each bite.
In the end, this salad is so good you'll forget about the rest of the meal. I can barely stop myself from licking the plate clean. I humbly hope it has the same effect on you. My mother would be so pleased.