Surprise, surprise, it’s kale again. Are you tired of kale yet? Because I’m not! (#sorrynotsorry)
This kale salad is my version of one we had in a restaurant in Portland called Ava Gene’s. If you live in Portland or are going there anytime soon, I strongly advise you to check this restaurant out ASAP. It is a great special occasion or date night spot, and one of the best restaurants I have ever been to.
If you know me, you know that Portland is my soul mate city. I moved there when I was 29, I met my husband there, we got married there, and we have moved away from Portland TWICE in the four years we have been together. Most recently, we moved to the Seattle area about 5 months ago. Luckily, it is only a few hours away by car, so we have been able to make several return trips to my BFC (Best Friend City? It’s a platonic love, between a girl and a city).
One of the (many) things I love and miss about Portland is the restaurant scene. Sure, Seattle has some good restaurants too, but Portland is on fire. You really can’t go wrong (well, you can actually. But it takes some work). A few months ago we were driving back to Portland to tie up loose ends during our move, and we decided to finally check out Ava Gene’s. This kale salad is something that we ordered on recommendation of our waiter. Normally, a kale salad is not something I would order at a restaurant. But this salad. It was magical.
We sat at the table, taking bites of the salad and trying to guess what the ingredients were. When we mentioned that to our waiter, he told us it was just five simple ingredients. Kale, lemon juice, olive oil, cheese and bread crumbs. What!?
We had to recreate it as soon as we got home. There are a few key things that make this salad special. The first is how you cut the kale. Our waiter described it as “shaved” which just means sliced into very thin strips. I think I cut it into thicker strips than they do. The second thing is to massage the kale with the lemon juice and olive oil. This takes the kale from tough strips to soft and tender green ribbons of goodness. And yes, you have to massage it for five minutes. After one minute you will be like “I’m sure I’m almost done!” and then you will look at the clock and there will be a sad trombone sound. But just keep at it for five minutes, it is worth it.
Of course, as with any dish that only uses a few ingredients, using the best quality that you can is very important. The first time I made this salad at home I used panko bread crumbs because we were in a temporary rental and I didn’t have my food processor. I only recently made my own, homemade breadcrumbs, and I can not stress what a HUGE difference it made. Making your own breadcrumbs is really, really worth it. It isn’t hard and only takes about five minutes, I promise.
To make the bread crumbs, all you need to do is tear up part of a good quality loaf of bread (I used the end of a french baugette) and give it a whirl in your food processor or blender until it turns into coarse crumbs. I liked the varying sizes, it gives the salad some good crunch and texture. Then toast them in a skillet with some olive oil until golden and season with kosher salt. Boom. Done. And you just made the most delicious salad accessory ever.
The way that the salad is served is a little different, but it assures that you will get a little of everything in every bite. First, arrange the kale in a thin layer on a plate.
Top the kale with a generous layer of high quality Parmesan cheese (or Pecorino if you prefer).
Then top all of that with a layer of bread crumbs. When you take a bite, you will get the perfect combination of lemony kale, salty cheese and crunchy breadcrumbs. Salad perfection.
Ava Gene's Kale Salad
- 1-2 large bunches large bunches lacinato kale about 6 cups chopped
- 4 ounces good quality french bread about 1/3 baguette
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lemon juiced and zested
- 1 ounce freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
- kosher salt
- fresh ground Pepper
- Break the bread up into chunks and put in a food processor. Pulse until crumbs are coarse.
- Toast in a skillet over medium high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, until golden, about 5 minutes. Season with kosher salt.
- Drain on a paper towel until ready to use.
- Remove the rib of the kale and slice the kale into thin strips.
- In a large bowl, add kale, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Toss together, and massage the dressing into the kale for 5 minutes.
- To serve, spread the kale in a thin layer on a large plate or serving dish. Grate the cheese over the kale in an even layer. Spread the bread crumbs over the cheese and serve.
Do you have a soul mate city?