Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Raw and Fried Tuscan Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

I love kale salads.  And yet, so many of the ones we make at home are vaguely disappointing.  I feel like it's tough to strike the right balance with a kale salad - you need the dressing to be fairly assertive because kale is a hearty little green with a slightly bitter flavor.  If you try to dress it the same way you would dress baby spinach or really tender young salad greens with a light balsamic vinaigrette it's just not going to work out.  But sometimes the dressing just goes a little too far in the wrong direction and gets too assertive and you lose the kale.  I have been trying for months to come up with a spicy Asian kale salad with cashews (for some reason I am really stuck on the cashews) and I keep failing.  The first time the dressing wasn't flavorful enough and the second time it was too harsh.  It was a bummer.  But this recipe is a wonderful quasi-Asian take on a kale salad that combines two of my favorite greens/vegetables - kale and brussels sprouts.  It has great flavor - bright fresh herbs, slightly bitter greens, and fried greens all tossed in a spicy fish sauce vinaigrette.  And it has wonderful texture.  But I should point out that it is labor intensive.  Alex took one look at the recipe and his comment was "at least you picked a simple recipe for dinner."  I believe my response was along the lines of if he does the menu planning in the future he can avoid over-complicated salad recipes, but until then...  We will make at least one change in the future to simplify the recipe a bit - roasting the kale and brussels sprout leaves in the oven saves us the time, aggravation and oil spatter of frying them in small batches.  I really liked the crispy texture and the nutty, concentrated flavor of the fried kale and brussels sprouts because it added depth of flavor and additional texture to the salad.  But you can achieve a nearly identical result (without risking third degree burns) by roasting the kale and brussels sprouts in the oven.  I'm also tempted to try to transform this into an entree salad by serving it with some tofu (we might roast that too) or shrimp.  I will probably play with it a little more, but I really liked this salad and aside from tinkering with the cooking method out of self-preservation and laziness, there isn't anything else I can think of that I would change to the base recipe.  As a side note, just because I found this recipe doesn't mean I am going to quit my quest to find a perfect spicy Asian kale salad.  I'll get there eventually.

P.S.  The picture sucks because we misplaced the memory card for our camera and had to use my cell phone.  And my iPhone 5s (which has otherwise taken excellent pictures) absolutely and utterly refused to cooperate.
Recipe after the jump!

 Raw and Fried Tuscan Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad
 Available at Food & Wine

2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice  
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce  
2 Thai chiles, finely chopped (we used one fairly spicy serrano)  
2 small garlic cloves, minced  
1 1/2 pounds Tuscan kale, stems and inner ribs discarded  
1/2 pound brussels sprouts  
3 tablespoons chopped basil 
  3 tablespoons sliced scallions 
  2 tablespoons chopped cilantro  
2 tablespoons chopped mint  
vegetable oil, for frying

In a small bowl, whisk the light brown sugar with the lime juice, fish sauce, chiles and garlic until the sugar is dissolved.
Cut half of the kale into thin ribbons and transfer them to a large bowl. Cut the rest of the kale into 4-inch wide pieces. Trim the brussels sprouts, reserving 2 loose cups of the whole outer leaves. Thinly slice the remaining brussels sprouts and add them to to the kale ribbons in the bowl along with the basil, scallions, cilantro and mint.
In a large skillet, heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Line a large baking sheet with paper towels. Add the brussels sprout leaves to the skillet and fry over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the leaves to the paper towels to drain. Working in batches, add the large pieces of kale to the hot oil and fry until translucent and crisp, about 3 minutes per batch. Drain on the paper towels. Add the dressing, crispy brussels sprouts and kale to the salad and toss to combine. 

Serve right away.

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