Kale, once spurned for its obligatory green cameos at the childhood dinner table, has undoubtedly emerged as the most fashionable of vegetables. Its ubiquity certainly induces its share of eye rolls, but it “has entered into our culinary lexicon,” says Serena Bass, executive chef of the convivial Italian eatery Lido, in New York’s Harlem neighborhood. “It may not have the excitement of a new discovery any more, but like a tomato, it is far from done,” she says. “It’s what we turn to when we need an earthy punch in soups or salads and feel the urge to binge on B vitamins.”
In fact, the best-selling dish at Lido is Bass’ warm kale salad, a balanced but “busy” melange of textures and essences. Charring the greens on the grill first leads to smoke notes, then “the sharp hit of 30-year-aged sherry vinegar and some heat from the chiles,” Bass points out. “The soothing, creamy cannellini beans are backed up by fragrant, piney rosemary.”
While Bass admits she dreamed up the dish when in a cranky mood, she believes the kale salad gives diners “quite a bit of a thrill.” She says, “There is something aggressive about all those strong flavors, but they amalgamate well.”
Charred Kale and White Beans with Rosemary and Parmesan
Yield: 8 servings
24 leaves curly kale
1 pound dried white beans, soaked overnight
6 sprigs fresh thyme
Last-minute addition of salt
When draining the beans, leave enough cooking liquid to keep them juicy. The little bit of liquid helps amalgamate the finished dish.
Crunchy sea salt or Maldon sea salt
Handful of shaved Parmesan
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
Pinch of hot pepper flakes
Aged sherry vinegar (ideally Columela)
Heat the grill to very hot. Lightly rub olive oil all over the kale, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Grill for 15 to 30 seconds, or until charred black at the edges; turn and repeat.
Chop medium and toss with the beans, oil, salt and pepper, Parmesan, hot pepper and a splash of the vinegar.
Per serving: Calories 294; Fat 9 g (Saturated 2 g); Cholesterol 3 mg; Sodium 521 mg; Carbohydrate 40 g; Fiber 11 g; Sugars 3 g; Protein 17 g
Alia Akkam is a New York-based writer who covers the intersection of food, drink, travel and design. She launched her career by opening boxes of Jamie Oliver books as a Food Network intern.