We all remember our first kiss, car, speeding ticket, job, etc... but do you recall your first Caesar salad? I do. The year was 1999 and the locale was a La Madeleine in Houston. I was on a back-to-school shopping trip with my mom, aunt and cousin. The moms got caesars and my 12 year old desperate to be a teenager self followed suit. And WOW. Just wow... truly life changing. I felt so cool and so satisfied eating that first Caesar and many, many such salads have blessed my life since. There is something so craveable about a good Caesar salad and for me, the combo of crunchy, cold lettuce+zippy, creamy dressing+nutty, salty parm never gets old. It is fun, however, to shake up the classics from time to time and this Caesar Style Kale and Farro salad is my ideal shake up.
The star of the show is this delicious tahini Caesar dressing. I don’t put raw eggs in, but tahini paste (made from sesame seeds) adds the same creaminess to the equation plus a subtle nutty flavor. Don’t knock it until you try it! The next ingredients are all part of the traditional Caesar lineup: lemon, anchovy, mustard, good olive oil, cracked pepper, and Parmesan. It’s so silky, savory and bright. This recipe will leave you with more than you need for the salad (it should yield about 1 cup) so enjoy the leftovers throughout the week! It will thicken in the fridge so bring the mixture to room temperature and give it a good stir to reuse. The tahini might look a bit grainy at first, but keep whisking- eventually you will get a glossy and fully emulsified concoction.
I know plenty of people who are against kale salad because the leaves are too “tough and scratchy”- listen, I hear you and I get it! But there is a fix for this! You must “massage” your kale before you toss it with the other ingredients. This may induce a few eye rolls but I promise it’s very easy and worthwhile. Put your stemmed and chopped kale in a bowl (I prefer Tuscan aka Lacinato for flavor and texture, but curly kale is fine too), then hit it with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Next, use your hands to literally scrunch and squelch (words? Idk) each leaf for a full minute or so, until the greens tenderize and turn a more vibrant shade of green. Don’t be afraid to put some muscle into it! Let the greens hang out 15 minutes then proceed with the recipe. This step is easy peasy and makes a BIG difference in your salad. I love the chewy addition of cooked farro to the salad- they are perfectly complimented by the nutty tahini dressing. The hearty grains allow this salad to stand alone as a light main course, or pair it with cooked protein as a delicious and versatile side dish. Look for pearled (or hulled) farro- it will cook much more quickly than the alternate variety. I just treat it like pasta and simmer it in salted water until tender but still a bit chewy (20-30 min). Hail “Kale” (and farro) Caesar!
prep time: ~30 min. cook time: 5 min. serves: 6-8
1 cup pearled (hulled) farro
1 bunch Tuscan (lacinato) kale, stemmed and chopped
1 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup shaved parmigiano reggiano, plus extra for garnish
extra virgin olive oil
TAHINI CAESAR DRESSING
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp anchovy paste
2 tbsp stirred tahini paste
1 large clove of garlic, finely grated on a microplane
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp coarse ground black pepper (or to taste)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
Make the dressing: combine the lemon juice, mustard, anchovy paste, garlic, tahini, salt and pepper in the bottom of a measuring cup or bowl. Stir to combine. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly until glossy, smooth and emulsified. Check for seasoning and stir in the grated parmigiano. Set aside. *Can be made up to 4 days ahead. Store tightly sealed in the fridge, bring to room temperature and stir to proceed with recipe.
Cook the farro: place the farro in a medium sauce pan and cover with a few inches of water. Season with 1 tsp salt. Bring everything to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cooking 20-30 minutes until the farro is al dente (tender but still a little chewy). Strain the grains in a fine mesh colander, rinse under cold water, and spread onto a rimmed baking sheet to cool evenly. Set aside.
Meanwhile, Place the kale in a large bowl. Season with a pinch of salt and drizzle with ~2 tsp olive oil. Use your hands to massage the greens, scrunching to coat until the kale is tenderized and a brighter shade of green for a full minute. Put some muscle into it! Let sit 15 minutes Before proceeding.
Add the cooked farro, walnuts, and shaved parmesan to the bowl with the massaged kale. Add some of the dressing (not all of it) and toss to coat everything evenly. Add more dressing as needed and check for seasoning. Serve immediately or up to 1 hour after to assembling, drizzling with a little more dressing and shaving more parmigiano over the top to garnish.